Sunday, May 31, 2009

Trailer Trash XLVIII: Bucktown (Fred Williamson, 1975)

"Where the chicks are on the make, the cops are on the take, and the welcoming committee is a sawed-off shotgun!"

In the same tradition as Bubba Smith, Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson, Rosey Grier and soon (shudder) Michael Strahan, Fred Williamson was a star football player who traded in his cleats for, um, acting shoes. One of the most prolific of the bunch, Fred Williamson's had more than 100 screen appearances over his 40-year career.

The bulk of Fred's body work includes some of the best-known blaxploitation flicks of the 1970s. Bucktown puts him on screen with blaxploitation legend Pam Grier.

Be prepared for some trailer-rapping:

For more examples of the awesome art of trailer-rapping, see former Trailer Trash subjects Dolemite and Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde.

"They're the greatest black attack pack you'll ever see!"

Trailer Trash is a weekly tribute to oddball, cheesy and often just plain terrible movie trailers. Writers: These movies got made... so can yours! You can read through our archive by clicking here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What, When, Where this Weekend - Drag Me To Hell, Munyurangabo, Pontypool, Up

What, When, Where is a weekly guide to select screenings, discussions and events in the NYC-area of interest to screenwriters. Have an event you'd like to see listed here? Give us a heads-up at

Opening this week...

DRAG ME TO HELL, written by Sam and Ivan Raimi, dir. by Sam Raimi

Premise: A loan officer ordered to evict an old woman from her home finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse which turns her life into a living nightmare. Desperate, she turns to a seer for help, and learns she only has a short period of time before she is literally ushered into Hell.

Playing: All over.

Sam Raimi - back to his slapstick horror roots? I'm beyond sold. Chalk me in.

MUNYURANGABO, written by Samuel Gray Anderson and Lee Isaac Chung, dir. by Lee Isaac Chung

Premise: An orphan of the Rwandan genocide travels from Kigali to the countryside on a quest for justice.

Playing: Anthology Film Archives

The first time I'd heard of this was Time Out's review. They do it a lot more justice than any of the information I've found online about it.

PONTYPOOL, written by Tony Burgess, dir. by Bruce McDonald

Premise: A psychological thriller in which a deadly virus infects a small Ontario town.

Playing: Cinema Village

UP, written by Bob Peterson, dir. by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson

Premise: By tying thousands of balloon to his home, 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America. Right after lifting off, however, he learns he isn't alone on his journey, since Russell, a wilderness explorer 70 years his junior, has inadvertently become a stowaway on the trip.

Playing: Everywhere.

It's Pixar. Do we have any reason to doubt them anymore? It's gotten ridiculous.

What are you doing/seeing this weekend?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Terminator Salvation - False Prophet

Salvation seems appropriate given that some fans of the Terminator franchise have been anticipating this particular kind of Terminator movie as if it were the second coming. Terminator Salvation, the action packed fourth installment to the franchise, is a bit of a false prophet in that regard. The film recovers some of the ground that many feel the franchise surrendered with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, but even with a perfectly awesome John Connor and lots of big summer action, fans will find it hard to escape the feeling that the film fell well short of its potential.

Directed by McG, Terminator Salvation takes place in the post apocalyptic world that we’ve seen in flashbacks throughout the previous films over the course of the last quarter century. John Connor (Christian Bale) is the prophesied leader of the human resistance against Skynet. On the brink of a major breakthrough in the war against the machines, Connor must decide whether or not to trust his instincts when he encounters one of Skynet’s latest creations, a part machine, part living human entity. The hybrid character remembers a human life and goes by his human name, Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington).

Salvation takes a duel protagonist approach with Connor and Wright, surprisingly giving both characters fairly equal screen time throughout the movie. Christian Bale has a serious approach to his role, and he truly makes you believe that most of John Connor’s life has been dedicated to the fight against the machines. His routine consists of sending radio addresses to the fragments of humankind around the world and obsessing over his mother’s recordings, searching for any bit of intelligence that will give him an edge in his fight. John Connor has spent the majority of his time in the franchise running for his life, but Bale presents us with a Connor that’s ready to stand and fight, and more than qualified to do so.

Skynet’s design of Marcus Wright is very complex, but you don’t leave the movie thinking he’s a complex character. There’s a simplicity to him that I enjoyed. Similar to Connor, he’s a bleak individual, a man of few smiles. He’s in search of redemption for actions undertaken in the life he remembers, but for him redemption doesn’t seem attainable for much of the film. He carries his emotional pain while distributing physical pain to any man or machine that gets in his way. It’s easy to watch Marcus Wright in action. He’s bad ass to the point where you kind of want to see more of his story in the pre-apocalyptic world.

What I appreciated most about John Connor and Marcus Wright was that their attitudes fit what I envisioned to be the world of Terminator Salvation. Unfortunately, the nuclear devastated world as presented by McG, was hardly what I was hoping for in this installment. There just isn’t really a sense of dread surrounding Skynet and their operations. The conflict between man and machine appears be a fair fight, a far cry from the hopeless world we saw in flashbacks where dozens of terminator infantry were annihilating humans with the support of heavy armor and aircraft. In post-apocalyptic Los Angeles Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) fights a single bungling terminator with the use of silly pulley system traps. For over twenty years our imaginations ran wild about what an impossible obstacle Skynet must be. In Salvation we get to see one of the Skynet bases and it’s defended lightly enough that a helicopter can swoop in and land right in the middle. Most of the characters look clean, trimmed, and in some cases salon styled. If you’re a fan of the previous films and love the gritty world they painted of the future, the world of Salvation was a flat out disappointment. All in all, if you don’t dread the terminators and fear the outcome of them catching up to the main characters, a Terminator movie can’t succeed. The film made the worst possible mistake they could have by having terminators that absolutely suck at terminating.

It would be hard not to blame this failure largely on the PG-13 rating, something that made all fans cringe when first discovered. The violence the terminators inflict is hardly intimate, because the rating prohibits it to be. Most of the time we see a huge explosion and surmise that several humans must have just met their end. Terminators in the previous films were a force to be reckoned with, primarily because they could get up close and personal and do things like gun down a police station, punch out somebody’s heart, or spear somebody through the mouth. That is not mindless violence. It reinforces the idea of a purely lethal force that only exists to find our protagonist and extinguish his/her life. Considering that John Connor and Kyle Reese are such high priority targets for Skynet and given the lethality of the terminators in previous films, it’s just frustrating to see terminators get their hands on the characters over and over again and fail to kill them.

After seeing Salvation I couldn’t help but think back the original Terminator and admire everything they accomplished. Michael Biehn was simply amazing as Kyle Reese. From the moment he comes scurrying into pre-apocalypse LA, we see someone who has been entirely consumed by an almost hopeless fight for survival. What fuel he has left in the tank is solely dedicated to finding and protecting Sarah Connor. Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor was equally excellent as she presented a completely overwhelmed and utterly terrified woman who is suddenly confronted with her grim destiny. Let’s not forget about Arnold, whose terminator is still the standard for what every killing machine should be. “Are you Sarah Connor?” The moment that unfortunate lady said yes, there was absolutely no escape. But had that been Salvation she would have been able to run out the backdoor with the terminator firing inaccurate shots into the ceiling.

Thematically, screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris focus on what separates a human from a machine. Marcus Wright provides the perfect vehicle for exploration of this, but the film doesn’t seek to dive in too deeply to the questions it poses. Instead John Connor and Kyle Reese have thematic blurbs that do little more than reinforce the thematic conclusions the audience already had in their heads. Zombie seemed concerned because this is the screenwriting team that gave us Catwoman. Rest assured, Salvation is far from Catwoman, but you won’t be studying the script much. Most of the story’s disappointments will most likely be overlooked because something else will disappoint viewers or audiences will be distracted by a fairly quick pace and blockbuster action.

Salvation does leave things open for future John Connor adventures. There’s no doubt that they’ll stick with the PG-13 rating and cash in on Christian Bale’s fantastic box office run, but fans will cling to hopes that the fifth film will tap into the full potential of the world the first three movies established. Salvation was the skirmish in man’s fight against machines. What we want to see is the all out war.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) Part 73 – Finding Legal Advice

I’ve encountered a weird sort of conundrum in my recent searches for legal representation. On the one hand, I find it’s often overwhelmingly difficult to get anyone to offer help without being directly referred to them. On the other hand, certain attorneys seem more than willing to help, but then disappear off the radar.

My guess is that I’m subscribing to the same belief that a lot of young/new writers do that you have to get people behind you almost from the get-go – not just people who support you, but a team to work for you, i.e. lawyers, managers, agents, etc. To a degree, this is true. I wouldn’t suggest that any writer sign a contract or anything other than a release form (maybe) without having an entertainment lawyer take a look at it. Yet that doesn’t mean that the very same writer should pay a retainer or get a full-time lawyer on his or her side.

I recently had a producer approach me regarding a potential option on one of my scripts. At this point in the game, I still had a lawyer. (In case you’re wondering how I got this lawyer – she was a friend of my boss’s. As a courtesy to my boss, she looked over my initial agreement with a manager I was about to sign with. Then, as a courtesy to her, I agreed to remain with her, using her for future services.) When I got in touch with my lawyer about the option agreement, we had to first get the little issue of her fee out of the way. This wasn’t something I had discussed frankly with her before, which was probably a mistake on both our parts.

Before speaking to managers/lawyers/agents or anyone who takes a chunk of your sale, know what they are entitled to. Managers and agents typically take 10% (some managers go higher to 15 or more). Lawyers, even the top of the line ones, are either hourly or take 5%. Because I knew that lawyers get 5%, I knew to be on high alert when my lawyer said that she would take a little money upfront, and then 10% off the sale. Red flag. I like her, and she did me a big favor helping negotiate with my manager (a lot of managers will bypass signed documents in favor of a handshake agreement, which can be a lot nicer). However, I knew that I was being asked to give more than she was entitled, and the producer I was in connection with had mentioned I might need someone with more experience negotiating big deals, so, as I had done with my manager a month and a half earlier, I moved on.

To date, I haven’t been able to secure a new lawyer. Some firms wanted $600 an hour. Some wanted a $15K retainer just to talk to me. Others agreed to take me on – provided they liked my script- at the standard 5% but then never got back to me. I spoke to someone at the WGAE who was kind enough to read over my option agreement for me and gave me some pointers about it, with the caveat that she’s not legal counsel. Confident in the revisions and with assurances from other paralegals who did take the time to look at the agreement, even though I did not sign with their firm, I sent the revised agreement to the producer who was agreeable to the changes.

In the end, I realized that the world’s not as united against young writers as we might be made out to think. People were eager to help when and where they could, and encouraging when they couldn’t. Just don’t be afraid to make the phone calls. And know what’s standard. You’re your first line of protection.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Trailer Trash XLVII: Strange Behavior (1981)

"Straaaaaaaaaaange Behaviooooooor... a movie of mystery, horror, and suspense!"

Even good writers can write bad movies. Bill Condon won an Academy Award for his Gods and Monsters script in 1999; he would later receive another nomination for his adaptation of Chicago. This is the same guy who wrote Kinsey and Dreamgirls, which were certainly nothing to sneeze at. But let's look back two decades, all the way to a year known as 1981... What was Condon up to?

A barely-comprehensible little flick called Strange Behavior.

The trailer makes about as much sense as the movie itself, if you're wondering.

Fellow young writers: you know that weird little horror/sci-fi script you're working on now? There's a good chance it'll look pretty embarrassing in 20 years, when you're accepting an Oscar for your heartbreaking drama.

Trailer Trash is a weekly tribute to oddball, cheesy and often just plain terrible movie trailers. Writers: These movies got made... so can yours! You can read through our archive by clicking here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What, When, Where this Weekend - The Girlfriend Experience, Terminator Salvation

What, When, Where is a weekly guide to select screenings, discussions and events in the NYC-area of interest to screenwriters. Have an event you'd like to see listed here? Give us a heads-up at

Opening this week...

THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, dir. by Steven Soderbergh

Premise: A drama set in the days leading up to the 2008 Presidential election, and centered on a high-end Manhattan call girl meeting the challenges of her boyfriend, her clients, and her work.

Playing: Landmark Sunshine, Clearview Chelsea

Most of the buzz around this 'un came Soderbergh casting a porn actress in the lead. (Time Out thinks she did a good-enoughjob.) For fun, check out her NSFW imdb filmogaphy here.

TERMINATOR SALVATION, written by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris, dir. by McG

Premise: John Connor is joined in his attempt to defeat Skynet and its army of Terminators by Marcus Wright, a man who apparently has been rescued from the past, though Connor wonders if instead he's been sent from the future as a foil to his plan. As Connor and Wright push deep into the heart of Skynet, they get closer and closer to learning the secret behind the organization's mission to wipe humankind off the planet.

Playing: Everywhere

Terminator 4, via the director of Charlie's Angels and the screenwriting team of Catwoman. Needless to say, I'll be entering this one cautiously...

What are you doing/seeing this weekend?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Free Outdoor Movies in Brooklyn this summer - Summerscreen @ McCarren Pool Announces Lineup

Summerscreen is a free outdoor movie series projected in Brooklyn's McCarren Pool every Wednesday. These are always a ton of fun and draw massive crowds - just show up around dusk. Food and drinks are sold on-premises.

The 2009 Schedule:
July 8 - Reality Bites
July 15 - Evil Dead 2
July 22 - 24 Hour Party People
July 29 - Wild at Heart
August 5 - Fame
August 12 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Evil Dead 2! Wild At Heart!

See you all there.

Image courtesy of Gowanus Lounge.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 72 – The Sum of Its Parts

I’ll admit right now – I’m not very good at writing female characters. They always wind up being either completely one-dimensional or erratic and, more often, flat out crazy (obvious insight to my dating history, I’m sure). So, knowing full well that my female characters always need more attention – and hence, pretty much every romantic relationship I write does, too – I decided to go about my rewrites in a different way this week.

My comic book style spec is full of big action, big battles, big danger. But at the heart of it, it’s a story about redemption, as told through a budding romance. (OK, maybe not quite as sappy as that makes it sound, but there is a romance that evolves throughout it.) I knew that the ten major beats that comprise the relationship weren’t quite working before, but for some reason, I always tried to fix them within the context of the scenes that come immediately after or before them. I wasn’t able to fix anything, since I was too involved in what was next to make the scene work in and of itself. So, this week, I pulled the ten scenes out and read them back to back, with nothing other than awareness about how they fit into the greater scheme of things), to make sure that they worked as a storyline.

I can’t tell you how helpful I found this approach. OK, scenes one through five work, but then what’s said in six appears again in eight. And why is she mad in eight when they were fine in seven? By reading this select group of scenes together, I was able to figure out what story I was trying to tell (purely between these two characters) and how its evolution was either working or failing. When I reinserted them into the script, they formed a much more coherent subplot, and therefore, worked within the greater context much more effectively.

I actually found the approach so useful that I tried it with two other storylines. (I don’t want to make it sound like the script is fragmented – everything works together, but the romance is happening as the antagonist is doing his thing as X, Y, and Z. In order to make sure that the parts added up to a solid whole, I broke the script down and analyzed the parts.) By the end of the weekend, I had cut out an inconsistent (and unnecessarily drawn out) ticking clock, raised the stakes, streamlined the action and dialogue, and clarified characters’ motives. All because I broke the script down into its individual parts. Maybe you, dear reader, do this al the time. I hadn’t before. Now I wonder how much time I’ve lost in rambling rewrites that didn’t quite address or even find the problems in the script.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Star Trek: Warp Speed to $300 Million and Beyond

Apparently Star Trek is a big deal. The original series of 1966 paved the way for four additional live action series, an animated series, several movies, video games, comics, books, a new language, and I’m sure there’s more. Trekkies will have to forgive me. My exposure to the Star Trek universe is limited to fragments of the various series, and one prolonged exposure to Star Trek Voyager during a nine month stint where I was stranded on my brother’s couch with nothing but Spike TV to watch. I’m a fan of science-fiction, but I never was completely sold on Star Trek, so I approached J. J. Abrams' latest film with skepticism. Could it really be as great as all these reviews claim? After seeing the movie I think most critics are being a little too rewarding, but nonetheless, Star Trek is definitely a fun addition to the summer movie season. The film moves at brisk pace with lots of exciting sci-fi action, a beautiful presentation, and the gags you’d associate with a summer blockbuster.

Star Trek presents the origin story of the original crew of the starship Enterprise. There are seven crewmembers we follow, but the film stays closest to James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto). The film moves at warp speed pretty much from the first scene, where we witness the dramatic conditions surrounding Kirk’s birth in space. The next few scenes parallelize the lives of Kirk and Spock as we see the development of a spontaneous and brash Kirk compared to the more subdued and logical entity that is Spock. It’s impossible for me to gauge how well Pine and Quinto’s characters stack up to the originals, but most of the Star Trek fans I know feel they did a good job. But from a story standpoint, Abrams’ ultimate goal is not to appease trekkies, but establish the polarity, rivalry, and eventual friendship between the two main characters. In that regard you have to acknowledge that they did a fine job, but the film ultimately serves the relationship of these two characters more than it does its story and conflict.

Eric Bana plays Nero, an alien obsessed with destroying The United Federation of Planets (this includes Earth) and seeking revenge against Spock for his failure to save his home planet. The circumstances surrounding this failure are unfortunate, but in my opinion don’t add up to match Nero’s hatred and motivation. Even if I were entirely comfortable with Nero’s desire for revenge against Spock, his desire to go on a planet destroying rampage is somewhat forceful. But hey, it’s a sci-fi movie, villains are allowed to be unreasonable. Sci-fi movie or not, a great antagonist will always feel locked to the protagonist emotionally and physically. There’s something about Nero that feels separate from James Kirk, even though Kirk was born in the wake of Nero’s destruction. The two characters weren’t even both aware of one another until the climax. For much of the movie Nero is fixated on Spock, and Kirk seems to inherit Nero as his greatest obstacle.

Star Trek is fortunate that its quick pace takes us from one action scene to the next before audiences can really get hung up on some logic problems and big coincidences in the story. Going into some of the coincidences could venture into spoiler territory, but from a screenwriting standpoint it’s the kind of stuff that every league member would have gotten called out for if we tried it in class. It’s hard to determine if screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman were lazy. I have a hunch that the film has a ton of extras that didn’t make the final cut, some of which might have ironed out a few kinks. If I’m wrong then I would say that the screenwriters are guilty of writing what they needed to get from A to B, and not what the story needed.

The supporting characters aboard the Enterprise are introduced and come to their posts aboard the starship quickly. Treating it any differently would have involved slowing down the movie and cluttering it with more dialogue. To Abrams’ credit, Star Trek stuck with its desired pace over the course of a comfortable running time of just over two hours. Of the supporting characters I need to mention Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), the character that gets the fourth most development of the seven. She’s probably the only thing more pleasing to the eye other than the great visual effects the movie has to offer. Women are underrepresented in the film, and if Uhura is an indication of what women will be like in the future, unfortunately the best description would be intelligent harlots. Uhura shows promise in the early going. She’s smart, motivated, and one of the more qualified members aboard the Enterprise. All of my respect for her as a character went out the window with the way she throws herself at Spock. It made no sense to me. It was as if suddenly Abrams had to throw a bone to the thirteen year old boys in the audience who wanted to see her rub up on somebody. Where’s a Captain Janeway when you need one?

One could look at Star Trek as a two hour introduction that sets up the adventures to come. Abrams puts his pieces in place well and manages to mask most shortcomings by whisking us quickly from joke, to great visual, to action scene. We can expect the sequels to be equally entertaining, but viewers should demand a more rewarding story that has the capacity to engage the characters more thoroughly. A menacing and ever-present antagonist would be a great step in this direction. I wish I could comment more on how the film stacks up in the minds of true Star Trek finds, but I know you guys are out there. Chime in and let me know what you thought about the movie.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 71 – Delaying the Inevitable

What’s your favorite part of writing a screenplay? Developing characters? Outlining? Dialogue? Personally, I love writing fast paced first acts and killer third acts. The problem is, I don’t tend to enjoy everything in between, i.e. act two. Luckily, I just realized one of the biggest problems that I tend to have with it.

With my Roman-army spec, the League kept telling me, “We get to page 35 and then nothing happens until act three. They just keep talking about what they’re gonna do, but no one does anything.” Of course, I denied that. “It’s all about character in there. Any they do move the story forward. See all these scenes? This is what that scene does. This one does this other thing.” And so on and so forth. Well, I realized I have been wrong. My problem with writing Act Two is in delaying the inevitable.

I’m rereading a comic book style action spec I wrote about two years ago. It was relatively smooth sailing for about 50 pages. Then I hit the midpoint of the script, which felt more like a brick wall. At 100 pages, the script is already pretty trim. The problem is, a lot of the second half of the script is fluff. I build toward a climactic sequence that eventually does come. But before that, I have at least 20 ages in which a lot happens, yet hardly anything happens. The characters all spend a lot of time talking about the big battle scene that we know is coming, talking about who they can trust and who they can’t, talking about how they feel going into the battle. Talking. Talking. Talking. However, they do very little doing.

I find that it’s a difficult balance in keeping the story moving forward while not overwriting everything that the film is working toward. Too often I duplicate a scene to ensure that the reader (and, hopefully, viewer) knows exactly what everyone is feeling going into the climax. To that effect, I have many unnecessary scenes that push the big reveals and action back, but do nothing to further the story. These scenes just sit there, take up space, and, if I was really off my game, reiterate what I’ve already said. They delay unnecessarily. For page count? Because I’m not confident I’ve clarified what I’ve needed to? I’m not sure. All I know is that they have to go. And seeing them in this old script will help me be on the alert in them in all future scripts I write.

Stop delaying. Get to the good stuff already.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Trailer Trash XLVI: The Giant Gila Monster (1959)

"It all started like an ordinary record hop... had the only known the black monster waiting outside..."

Oh, do I love me a good ol' record hop!

Back in the days before CGI, if you wanted to stick Nicolas Cage's head into a basket full of bees, you either had to get creative or find yourself a basket of bees. If you needed a giant monster, however, you just needed to find a regular-sized critter and drop it onto a pile of Hot Wheels. Splice that into some footage of people standing next to cars, pointing at the sky and screaming, and boom! You've got yourself a movie.

Oh, no! Mighty Max, look out!

Not the Micro Machines! Anything but the Microooo Machiiiiiiines!!!!

"Devouring people... like they were flies!"

Trailer Trash is a weekly tribute to oddball, cheesy and often just plain terrible movie trailers. Writers: These movies got made... so can yours! You can read through our archive by clicking here.

Friday, May 08, 2009

NYAFF 2009!!!

It's back!!
New York Asian Film Festival
June 19 - July 5
IFC Center and Japan Society

If you live in New York City, you know that at any given day there're at least 10 events going on, but the one I look the most forward to every summer is the New York Asian Film Festival. Despite NYC being an international metropolis, it is still hard to catch the latest asian films. NYAFF is the time when I go on asian film beige. Again this year there's an amazing line up with films for everyone. Here's just a few:

Let's start with a few films I'm personally excited about: OLD FISH, where members of Harbin’s bomb squad take on a mad bomber who’s leaving homemade explosives all over the city. What's different about this movie (which Onyx will appreciate) is it's acted mostly by actual cops and bomb squad officers. Then there's romantic comedy from China IF YOU ARE THE ONE, which is the second-highest grossing movie EVER released in China. The original film name is actually "Do Not Disturb If Not Sincere", about a man determined to end his bachelorhood and posts an advertisement, and a heart-broken stewardess who ended an affair with a married man. More than one review says this film goes back to the golden age of romantic films.

For those manga followers, 2008 NYAFF brought Death Note 1 and 2. This year, they have 20 CENTURY BOYS and 20 CENTURY BOYS: CHAPTER TWO- THE LAST HOPE. This award winning manga series is about an ordinary man who realizes that someone is drawing from a book he and his friends created as kids about the end of the world, and making it come true. Will they be able to stop the conspiracy in time? What excites me the most is that rather than trying to stuff the series into one 2 hr film, it's a three part series, and according to wiki, the movie is a faithful adaptation to the manga. I have not read 20 Century Boys, but I'm a big fan of Naoki Urasawa's other series Monster, which you can find them in any major bookstore. There is also ANTIQUE (TRAILER), based off the wildly popular (and I'm not joking about this) shojo manga series Antique Bakery about gorgeous gay men who make even more gorgeous cakes.

On the more serious front is CHILDREN OF THE DARK (TRAILER), a Japense drama that's set (and now banned) in Thailand about child trafficking, both for sex and for their spare organs. Also CLIMBER'S HIGH (TRAILER), about a group of newspapermen covering the real-life tragedy of a 1985 plane crash in the mountains of central Japan.

For martial art addicts, you will not be disappointed: there's Hong Kong historic action complete with battle scenes AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS (TRAILER); there's sexy ridiculous action with a hot girl who is actually a samurai who is actually a cyborg, SAMURAI PRINCESS; there's based off of Bruce Lee's master IP MAN action; there's award winning brutal bloody action BREATHLESS (TRAILER); there's 70's Korea's anti-communist hysteria satire spy comedy action DACHIMAWA LEE; retrospective screening of iconic old school (1978) action flick FIVE DEADLY VENOMS; and just pure comedy action whose plot can be explained with its title: BE A MAN! SAMURAI SCHOOL (TRAILER)

Then there are the beautiful, sensitive dramas: ALL AROUND US, which follows 8 years of marriage of a courtroom sketch artist. Actress Tae Kimura won “Best Actress” for her performance as the wife at the Japanese Academy Awards. CAPE NO. 7 (TRAILER), the highest grossing movie ever released in Taiwan, is a crowd pleasing film about in a tiny seaside town and its civic booster mayor who vows to form a local band to be the opening act for a pop star's concert. How does this have anything to do with 7 love letters that were lost in the war? I have no clue and am excited to find out. Then there's the brutal VACATION, which builds to a powerful punch in the guts as a guard volunteers to holds down the legs of a condemned prisoner when he’s hung in order to get extra vacation time. ROUGH CUT (TRAILER), a high concept action film about a spoiled actor known for playing gangsters who stars in his latest movie with a real life gangster.

I'm personally a sucker for surreal films, so I'm pretty psyched about DREAM, where two people find that their dreams are connected. To make matters worse, one of them is a sleepwalker that acts upon what the other dreams. Also THE CLONE RETURNS HOME (TRAILER), which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival about an astronaut's wife who recieves a clone of her husband when he dies in an accident in orbit. But life can be hard when you’re the clone of a dead man, and soon this photocopied human is lost in the labyrinth of his own artificial memories.

And what would an Asian Film Fes be without its above and beyond over the top ridiculous movies? Samurai zombies! Need I say more? Samurai zombies chasing a happy family on vacation and some mentally unbalanced guys with guns! That's YOROI SAMURAI ZOMBIE (TRAILER). Also the return of hideous space chicken, Guilala, who attacks the G8 Summit and the world leaders must fight back! MONSTER X STRIKES BACK: ATTACK THE G8 SUMMIT (TRAILER). From Malaysia is WHEN THE FULL MOON RISES, a “lost” black-and-white thriller from the 60’s with secret communist cults, werewolves, were-tigers, ghosts, private eyes, midgets and eerie secrets,

Check out Subway Cinema for more films and events (including Tokyo Gore Night and Pink Power)!

The films are playing June 19 - July 2 at the IFC Center (323 Sixth Avenue, at West 4th Street) and July 1 - 5 at Japan Society (333 East 47th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues).

Thursday, May 07, 2009

What, When, Where this Weekend - Star Trek, Rudo y Cursi, Adoration

What, When, Where is a weekly guide to select screenings, discussions and events in the NYC-area of interest to screenwriters. Have an event you'd like to see listed here? Give us a heads-up at

Opening this week...

STAR TREK, written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, dir. by J.J. Abrams

PREMISE: The origin story of Captain James T. Kirk, Spock and the crew of the USS Enterprise before they had boldly gone where no man had gone before.

PLAYING: Everywhere

A lot of excitement has built up around this one, and early reviews are saying it pretty much kicks ass. It's technically an odd-numbered Star Trek movie, though, so you have to be wary... I'll let you know what I think.

RUDO Y CURSI, written and directed by Carlos Cuaron

PREMISE: A chance encounter with a talent scout affords half-brothers Tato and Beto the opportunity to play professional soccer in Mexico City. The catch: the scout can only bring one of the boys, which kickstarts an intense sibling rivalry, though fate will not keep the brothers apart for long.

PLAYING: Landmark Sunshine

This movie is getting a lot of buzz around re-uniting the stars of Y Tu Mama Tambien. This'll eventually hit my Netflix queue.

ADORATION, written and directed by Atom Egoyan

For his French-class assignment, a high school student weaves his family history in a news story involving terrorism, and goes on to invite an Internet audience in on the resulting controversy.

PLAYING: Clearview Chelsea

I've been a fan of Egoyan's Exotica and Sweet Hereafter. I'll give this one a rent.

What are you doing/seeing this weekend?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Roundabout Puts the GO in Godot

Zombie and I recently had the pleasure of attending Roundabout Theatre Company's opening night performance of Waiting for Godot. And Roundabout got it RIGHT. (Allow me this break from film, if you will, since NYC is, after all, the theatre capital of the world. Nowadays, the number of artists who cross over between screen and stage is also greater than those who stick solely to one, so I feel like it is just as suitable to devote time and effort to live theatre as it is to film.)

Normally, I'm not a huge Godot fan. A poor production of it is really quite difficult to sit through, and a filmed stage production loses most if not all of its magic. But Roundabout Theatre's latest revival of the play hits the nail on the head. I haven't had as enjoyable a night at the theater in a long time. Perhaps its the stellar cast - Bil Irwin, Nathan Lane, John Goodman, and John Glover (who just secured a Tony Nomination for his performance). Perhaps it's that the show is played for laughs at all the right moments. Whatever the combination of things done right, this is a ticket to hunt for.

As soon as the lights went down at the final curtain (and after the 10 minute standing ovation), I turned to Zombie and said, "This is going to review well. Really well." I wasn't quite able to put my finger on all the things that I enjoyed so much about the show (I'm still not able to here). Sometimes you just know when something is working, and that was the case for me with Waiting for Godot. I strongly encourage anyone in NYC with cash to spare to go to Waiting for Godot.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 70 – In Talks to Option

Last Tuesday I had breakfast with a woman whose parents bought my grandmother’s house from my family. More importantly to me, she is also a producer with multiple projects in development at the moment. She read my post-Apocalyptic spec. And she liked it. She wants it.

As with most things in the film industry – at least for those of us trying to break into it – there was waiting involved. I was growing more and more disenchanted with the job that my then manager was doing, so, with the help of my aunt, I sent my script to the producer’s father. He is also a writer and was one of the first people to read one of my screenplays – he read the second feature length script I ever wrote back when I was in high school. So, he read and, once he did, recommended it to his busy daughter. Cut to a few weeks later, I’ve dropped my representation, and my phone rings. It’s the producer (whose name, you can tell, I’m withholding for the time being), and she wants to option the script. She’s based in LA, but is heading to the City in a few weeks for the Tribeca Film Festival. We set a breakfast meeting for Tuesday, April 28.

At that point, I still had potential interest in my script at a prod co that has a first look deal with WB. I didn’t want to lost the great opportunity of an option – this producer had optioned another basically unknown writer’s material, got him an agent, got him a $500K sale, and got his movie made. However, I also had a major potential opportunity that could lead to Warner Brothers. Luckily, my contact there is also a friend, so I was able to email her my updates and ask semi-indirectly if anything was going to happen with my script on her end. She advised me to go with the option, since it just wasn’t the right time to take my scrip to WB.

So, with all that resolved, I went to the breakfast meeting last week. Mind you, even though this producer is a family friend, this was the first such meeting I’ve had and I wanted to treat it as I would any other. We met at a cafĂ© for breakfast – nothing simple, bagel for me, eggs for her – and did the brief “how are you, what have you been up to” chat before jumping into a pretty frank discussion on the script and what we would do to move forward with it.

She liked the script, but, as I found with everyone else who had read it, had some notes that would need to be addressed before she went forward with it. Her manager had also read the script, and if I was willing to do some rewrites, he would send me his notes. (He would also become my manager at that point.) The manager had already made a call to one of the companies the script was submitted to earlier, just to get a feel for how it was received.

In order to resubmit to certain companies – companies that liked the script but thought it needed some work before they would really consider picking it up – I would also have to change the title, since no one will read something that their records show they already passed on. The big question of the morning, then, was three-fold: would I do rewrites, would I change the title, at least for the time being, and did I have a follow-up script I could send ASAP? My answer was an immediate and honest triple yes.

There’s some debate in “how-to” books and websites on whether a writer should pursue an option. Some of the reasoning against it seems to go, “if someone wants your material, they should just buy it; otherwise, you risk winding up with a script that everyone has read and no one wants, i.e. a dead script.” I don’t subscribe to this belief. Why pass up an opportunity to work with someone who not only likes your material, but thinks that they can get a picture made out of it? Especially as a young writer, that is second only to actually making a sale – and hopefully that will come in the next year, before the option expires. I’ll keep you all informed.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Trailer Trash XLV: Frogs (1972)

"Today, the pond... Tomorrow, the world!"

There's too much pollution! Nature fights back! Hollywood had already run out of ideas by 1972!

My favorite thing about this trailer is how it's practically all shots of people looking at harmless-looking critters and screaming their lungs out. Aaaaagh!! It's a toad! It's over there! On the bookshelf! AUUUGGGH IT'S KILLING MEEEEEEEEE

Really, this is more of the "Same shit, different animal" variety of films that brought us films like The Birds, Squirm, Night of a Thousand Cats and about a million other animals-strike-back movies. This time it's frogs. (And birds, and snakes, and spiders... they couldn't even stick to the movie's title all that well.)

Take a second, long look at that poster. At first glance, most people (myself included) assume that we're looking at a giant frog, judging by the human hand hanging out of it's mouth. But, notice those blades of grass next to the frog? Yes, that's just a normal frog, eating the world's tiniest human.

"What if nature threw a war, and all the animals came?"

Trailer Trash is a weekly tribute to oddball, cheesy and often just plain terrible movie trailers. Writers: These movies got made... so can yours! You can read through our archive by clicking here.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Writing Wire for 5/1 - Teaming Up, More More Moranis, Why Videodrome?

- FilmLinc has an exclusive interview with the filmmakers behind Sugar focusing on the power of creative collaboration. You can read DOA's review of the film over here.

- Miramax has drafted Rachel Getting Married writer Jenny Lumet to write for a project titled This Strange Thing Called Prom. Haven't read Rachel, yet? The screenplay is still available for download here.

- FSR asks the question that's been on my mind: Why the hell is someone remaking Videodrome?

- George Romero's ...of the Dead series could become novels.

- Is Rick Moranis coming out of retirement for Ghostbusters III?

- The Hobbit's going to be broken into two films.

Any links you wanna send our way?