Highly engaging characters. Entertaining dialogue. So so story. In a work like this, so much depends on the execution—particularly the acting—it’s hard to assess whether the screenplay succeeds or not. For the first half of the read I thought the script kept going off-story. Once I realized that perhaps this was intentional, I adjusted my expectations for narrative integrity and began to appreciate it for some of its other qualities.
The characterizations in this screenplay are fairly superficial, though effective, because they are so engaging and likable. Sonny and Tina, and to a lesser extent Nakamura, are good examples. Satin’s characterization is much less effective, as she emerges as a major player late in story and then most of what we know of her comes from her rant against men, which is not well supported by the material that precedes it.
I’m hard pressed to describe what this screenplay is about. Satin’s rant is the closest thing to a statement of theme in the script that I could find. At least she’s talking about something. Or is the theme expressed in the perpetual quibbling of Louie and Zig? None of this pertains much to Sonny, the protagonist. He’s not Sam Spade, who believes that if someone kills your partner, you do something about it. He’s not even the Dude, who insists “This will not stand.” So what does Sonny Kopoho stand for? He may be a likable, funny and engaging main character. But not enough to carry a 108-page screenplay, without knowing his driving goal or what matters most to him.
Fortunately, there’s Tina. She’s enough to make me want to see the movie. The setting for this story is another positive. I’ve never been to Hawaii. But I imagine it as the perfect backdrop for this story.
For the most part, the authors employ a very effective and witty writing style. But sometimes it is unnecessarily confusing. In many instances you opt for cleverness over clarity. This can make for entertaining reading, but does not always convey a clear sense of the motion picture you envision.
I don’t have much in the way of suggestions for this script. The structure seems very loose to me. But I couldn’t make recommendations about that without ruining some other part of the story. For instance, the scene in the End Zone. For the most part it was very entertaining. But halfway through, I was wondering what this has to do with anything. Should you get rid of it or cut it down? I don’t know. It could end up being one of the most entertaining scenes in the movie if it ever gets made (it certainly contains some of the best trailer moments). Sorry I can’t be more helpful than that.
Thank you for a mostly enjoyable, though somewhat rambling read. My notes below were written as I read. Take them for whatever you think they’re worth.
p. 1-10 – The first ten pages need work. Too much talk, much of which is confusing or irrelevant. I was confused by the transition from bar to office back to bar. Fortunately, something happens on page 9 (a robbery). Until this development, I was tempted to set aside the screenplay.
p. 10 – Sonny asking the cop “Can I go pee?” makes him look like a wimp. He redeems himself somewhat by calling the cop an idiot.
p. 24 – Something very unsavory about Sonny squeezing the Dangler’s breast. I’m not sure anyone wants to see the “hero” of a story do this, even for the sake of a kind of funny one-liner. If you must have him do this, maybe you could have him “places hand on her breast,” which is a lot less creepy than squeezing it.
p. 27 – “And a strip search!” – Not so funny the second time.
p. 36 – This scene was pretty funny up until the “gay divorcee” remark. Maybe Sonny has had too much to drink, but as a joke it misses the mark. Not sure why Frederick takes a swing at him.
p. 38 – Get rid of the “Tina” parenthetical and describe the action in a way the reader understands. I.e., “The Latino introduces Sonny to his oversexed girlfriend, Christina, a hot little packet of crystalline powder.” Maybe that’s not so good. But you get the idea.
p. 32-40 – The long scene at the End Zone has some funny moments, but does nothing to move the story forward (the introduction of the Latino/Tina subplot could have been handled in half a page or less). With no real purpose to the scene, all the gay humor begins to feel gratuitous.
p. 44 – Denmark… rotten… Bad.
p. 46 – “You mean that fella’ who trusted a ghost and ended up dead?” - This line reads like a mini-editorial from the writers, not something anybody would actually say.
p. 46 – No need to translate for Sonny.
p. 56 – I realize Sonny is a drunk. But the naked, drunk and stoned riff seems to stray pretty far off topic. What happened to the story?
p. 64 – What is the party in the hotel room about? The ice dilemma is not holding my interest. Girl-on-girl action, slightly more interesting. But is this connected to the story in some way?
p. 75 – “I love John Travolta.” Come on. Everybody knows that was Robert DeNiro.
p. 88 – I don’t know about this… Cute twist. But it’s so unbelievable. It’s just too obvious that Sonny wouldn’t kill Tina, even if she was the evil one. It might work better if they both knew it was a game and the reader was the one in the dark. Or perhaps if Sonny didn’t go so far as to think he killed her. Maybe he would throttle her and slap her face, while Tina would be thinking that was all part of the act.
p. 91 – The Hui parenthetical is unnecessary. Let the reader figure this out through context.
94-95 – Not sure about the plastic surgery angle.
p. 104 – What is all this hatred of men about? It feels like you are introducing a new theme (antithesis?) in the third act. How about introducing the reader to these ideas earlier in the story. Actually, the whole third act feels like it came out of nowhere.
Review of: HAWAIIANSTEIN
reviewed by jayb on 12/23/2011
Review ID: 4056970
Other Reviews by jayb 92
A review of Laimaby jayb on 03/07/2014LAIMA is a well written script with vivid action scenes and a relentless pace. Most of the writing is of a professional caliber, and I can picture this script getting made into a straight to DVD B-grade action movie. If that’s what you aspire to, you’re almost there. There were a few points where the narrative is confusing, but that can be fixed without tremendous effort... LAIMA is a well written script with vivid action scenes and a relentless pace. Most of the writing is of a professional caliber, and I can picture this script getting made into a straight to DVD B-grade action movie. If that’s what you aspire to, you’re almost there. There were a few points where the narrative is confusing, but that can be fixed without tremendous effort. If, however, you are interested in producing something more than just a serviceable B movie script, there is a yet more work to do on the story.
The narrative moves along at a very brisk pace. Somehow, you must find a way to preserve that pace, while working in deeper characterizations and some kind of theme if you want it to shine. I was impressed with most of the writing, but kept asking myself… Why does this matter? If the point is merely to thrill and exult in violence, then I suppose you’ve succeeded on a modest level. But I believe this script has the potential to be more than that.
I’m sure I won’t be the only one to draw parallels with KILL BILL. To make LAIMA look like more than just a cheap knock-off, you should play up the one thing that distinguishes it from that movie – Laima’s decision to have her baby while running from Oksana and her pride of killers. This is a great plot development, but it does not work that well because we never get inside Laima’s character enough to understand why she chooses to do that. She could easily have an abortion and she clearly doesn’t plan to keep the baby. So why would a trained cold-blooded killer like Laima disadvantage herself by bringing it to term? More fundamentally, why would a woman with so little regard for human life, care about the growing human life inside her? I’m sure it would be possible to come up with a compelling answer to this question. But not without going deeper into the character.
This is the problem I had with your screenplay from the first act. Laima gets into this mess with Oksana because she decides to spare Victor’s Wife. We might assume that’s because she identifies with the other pregnant woman. But we don’t really know because we have no key to Laima’s character or how she feels about her own pregnancy. This script succeeds very well on the action level, but fails to connect on the level of story and character. If you haven’t done so already, you may want to check out Bill Martell’s book “The Secrets of Action Screenplays”, which is now available on Amazon in a Kindle edition. He does a good job of showing how to reveal character through action.
Another story element that would benefit from deeper characterization is the revenge plot. This is implied earlier in the story but is not made explicit until the end. Even when it is revealed, it doesn’t really resonate, because Laima never set out to defy Oksana or kill her son, but was merely reacting to their attempts to kill her. Laima has a very strong motive for revenge, but at no point in this story does she appear to really act on it.
Yazzie is a welcome character. Her entrance in the story adds a human element that has been lacking up until that point. You introduce her rather late in the story and I don’t see a way around that, but you might want to take more care with her character development. All of the sudden, Laima is hiding in Alaska and Yazzie shows up to take care of her and help her fight the bad guys. You put a lot of weight on this character, and I feel she deserves her own back story and a better reason to bond with Laima.
One more thing – the title. LAIMA doesn’t work for me. It’s difficult to pronounce, says nothing about the story or its genre, and it’s not even clear that it’s a name. I have the sense that this may just be a temporary placeholder, but you need something more marketable than that, once you’re ready to shop it around.
p. 1 – Good visual opening. But I wasn’t pulled in immediately. Could the bland character names – “Girl” and “Sister” – have something to do with that?
p. 2 – mixed metaphor with “halo” and “present.”
p. 3-4 –Why did the Ukranian drop the cell phone? I’m assuming it was rigged to some kind of trap, but I don’t think that was ever explained, and it left me wondering what was going on, without serving any good purpose in the story.
p. 1-10 – The first ten pages grabbed my attention, but I feel there is too much going on here. Too many strange names (or non-names) to keep track of, and some of the action seems peripheral to the plot, such as the wrestling match with Glasgow Smile. This is a very strange and violent world you present in the first ten pages. It’s different enough to intrigue me for now, but will not hold my interest for long unless some of this begins to make sense.
p. 11 – I’m feeling disoriented as to place. I don’t know where the first scene occurred. The scenes in the bath house and neon brothel felt like they took place in Russia. The Four Star Hotel could be anywhere. But the OB/GYN office feels distinctly American. It would help if you specified where all this is happening.
p. 14 – This business of lying on the slab just seems weird for the sake of being weird. And Oksana’s statement about the slab only makes it worse by being an on-the-nose pseudo explanation.
p. 15 – I’m starting not to care about any of these characters, as all they seem to do is kill. What is the purpose of all this?
p. 16 – Not clear what happens to Victor’s Wife. They just leave her there alive?
p. 19 – “Then maybe He’ll forgive all the other things.” – Doesn’t sound like something a real mother would say, and especially not a prostitute.
p. 19 – What’s the nature of the relationship between Laima and Polina? Does Laima pay to be with her? That doesn’t seem very probable. But how else would she be spending the night with her in a brothel?
p. 20 – Morning sickness at breakfast is such a cliché. Why not make it lunch or dinner?
p. 22 – I’m seeing the beginning of a moral dilemma for Laima here. That’s good. But page 22 of an 88 page script is a bit late to introduce this kind of tension in the story.
p. 25 – Good handling of the revelation on the father.
p. 26-29 – Let me see if I’ve got this straight…. Rapier picks her up to do a job on a guy named Utkin. She gets in the car with him and he proposes that they kill Oskana. Otherwise, he will have to kill her. A moment later Laima and Rapier are fighting in the car and Zoya pops through the back seat panel from her hiding place inside the trunk.
Did I get it right? What’s confusing me is Zoya… Wouldn’t she be able to hear Rapier plotting to kill Oksana? There’s an interlude where Rapier’s voice carries into the trees, so Zoya must be able to hear him from the trunk. You can probably finesse this by having him self-consciously turn up the radio when he makes his pitch, then cut to a shot of the back seat speakers. You can have the rattling speakers blend with the ringing in her head, and show her at first annoyed, then suspicious.
p. 30 – It turns out that Utkin is a doctor. I thought he was some guy they were going to hit. I guess Rapier was trying to lure Laima to the car under the pretext of getting an abortion, but that wasn’t really clear to me.
p. 30 – Bulletproof vest? Come on… How could a highly skilled assassin like Laima possibly have left Zoya alive?
p. 51 – It seems improbable that a state trooper would visit her at home, just to “check in”. Maybe a local cop would do that. Or maybe I just don’t know how it works in Alaska.
p. 55 – Why is Laima having a baby she apparently doesn’t want?
p. 58 – “If I could just do this one thing…” – You have not developed the internal psychology of the character enough for this statement to make any kind of sense.
p. 61 – Yazzie’s help is enlisted too easily. There’s not enough connection between the two to justify Yazzie risking her life for Laima.
p. 62 – “her sister” – you probably mean Michelle’s sister, but it sounds like she’s talking about Laima’s sister.
p. 83 – I don’t see Yazzie giving up the gun.
p. 84 – Oksana left Yazzie unconscious but alive to help Laima with the baby? That doesn’t make sense, either.
p. 85 – Why does Oksana ask Laima why she killed Rapier? Didn’t Oksana send Rapier to kill her? read
A review of The Rebellious Sonby jayb on 11/06/2013Here we have a unicorn for a narrator who seems intent on taking the road less travelled by his kind – not to be known as a warrior or a healer, but as a worker. This is definitely not the expected choice for his species and it makes for an interesting premise for a short whimsical piece like this. The story hinges on the narrator’s choice of a human. So why is it such a... Here we have a unicorn for a narrator who seems intent on taking the road less travelled by his kind – not to be known as a warrior or a healer, but as a worker. This is definitely not the expected choice for his species and it makes for an interesting premise for a short whimsical piece like this.
The story hinges on the narrator’s choice of a human. So why is it such a poor choice? Of all the farmers in all the villages he visited, Greg seemed the most “willing.” But if his aim is to be a working horse, why not choose the farmer who seems most driven or faces the most desperate situation? I don’t even know what willing means. Willing to exploit him? Open to his magic? This lack of clarity detracts from the story.
Perhaps the point is that the unicorn is young and a poor judge of human character. First he misjudges Greg who later turns on him. Then he misjudges the knight, who turns out to be the nobler of the two main humans in the story. Perhaps he seeks nobility through work, only to find that menial labor can brutalize one more than it ennobles.
He misjudges the knight, dismissing him for not having a dedication to work. His assertion that “Working with the harshness of nature is far more testing of the soul than seeing if you’re able to kill someone” is a fallacy, because in truth the harshness of nature is nothing more than the killing of one being by another. I believe this is the point of the story. The Rebellious Son, like many rebellious young men, is foolish and arrogant until he experiences a disillusionment that casts the experience of his forebears in a different light.
Is this a fair summary? If so, I think it would help if you clarified the reasons for the narrator’s initial choice of Greg. Was it because he watched him laboring in the field and thought he was the hardest worker? Because he mistook Greg’s brutish connection to the soil for a form earthy nobility?
At the end, we get some insight into the narrator’s state of mind when he gazes on the knight’s “noble steed” with envy. This seems a clear indication that Rebellious Son regrets his choice of humans. This is good. Take some time to show how the narrator made such a poor choice at the outset and the ending will have even more emotional impact.
“kind of stupid” – this has a contemporary sound that breaks from the more archaic tone of the narrative voice.
Is the text in parenthesis part of the story or a note to the writer? I think it’s the latter. It’s definitely worth weaving this idea of the horn purifying the soil, as it fits with the theme of the story. Just as the ground horn purifies the soil, the narrator believes that he can purify himself by working the soil, as he believes Greg has done. Of course this will turn out to be an illusion. Menial labor is not purifying in this story and Greg is anything but purified by his encounter with the unicorn. In fact, it makes them both even more brutish. Greg has become murderous and vindictive and the unicorn has become envious and has lost his horn.
“vaunt” – I believe this word is used improperly here. I get the meaning, but it’s a distracting usage. Call him “vauntful” if you want to use this archaic word as an adjective.
“equestrian” – this word pertains to riding or to riders, not to the ridden. read
A review of Murderer's Creek (AFF Version)by jayb on 10/30/2013Congratulations on your semifinals placement in the Austin Film Festival. When I saw that, I had to win read your screenplay. I’ll be honest that at first I didn’t get it. The opening voiceover narrative and much of the first half of the screenplay did not seem like Austin material. But by page 60 I was hooked and I could not put down what was one of the strongest screenplay... Congratulations on your semifinals placement in the Austin Film Festival. When I saw that, I had to win read your screenplay. I’ll be honest that at first I didn’t get it. The opening voiceover narrative and much of the first half of the screenplay did not seem like Austin material. But by page 60 I was hooked and I could not put down what was one of the strongest screenplay endings I have read.
The pace of the last 25 pages is relentless as the story comes together in the most surprising and original reveal I have seen on TriggerStreet. There’s an uneven quality to this screenplay. The writing in the second half of the script is pro quality, but not so much the first. This is a classic dilemma: you’ve got the kind of ending which results in good word of mouth after people leave the theater, but a beginning that doesn’t pass the ten page test.
The writing in the first half isn’t all that bad. It’s just not up to quality of the second half: the dialogue tends to ramble and is frequently on the nose or anachronistic; the characterizations are misleading and shallow, given the heaviness of the third act; the story and theme are slow to develop.
To some extent, the power of the third act depends on withholding information in the first and second. But there is a fine line between withholding information and misleading the reader. You rely on inconsistent and psychologically implausible portraits of your principal characters to make the ending work. It was easy to spot Christopher as the killer by about page 50 of the script. So every time he speaks after that point, I was stuck with the feeling that his behavior doesn’t match his character. This is true for Annie and Randolp, too. For the third act reveal to really shine, the reader must be able to go back and look at Annie’s behavior in every scene preceding and say ‘Of course!’ There’s a great example of this when we first meet Annie as she expertly butchers a cow. What a brilliant scene! But the way the three principal characters speak throughout the first 90 pages does not match the darkness in their souls and the complexity of their relationships to one another. Annie’s exclamation of “Darn tooting!” when Randolph finally agrees to have her join the investigation sounds more like Nancy Drew than Jack the Ripper.
Implicit in the “Darn tooting!” remark is Annie’s almost pathological need for approval from her father. Where does this come from? This is the father who blindly allowed his daughter to be raped and turned into a whore by his third wife, then looked the other way when she savagely butchered that wife after giving birth. There must be something deeply flawed in Randolph to have allowed this to happen. But unless I missed something, he comes across as a fairly normal lawman, father and husband who is just trying to make the best of a bad situation. In the small town environment of Canyon City it would have been virtually impossible for him not to know of his third wife’s legendary infidelities. He’s the Sheriff, after all. One must conclude that he knew and let it happen. I can accept that. But how about an explanation? Is he an impotent drunk so dominated by his whoring wife that he meekly puts up with this abuse? Or is he an incestuous pedophile, too busy messing with his own daughters to notice or care what anyone else is doing to them? For this aspect of the plot to work, Randolph needs a dark secret, like Annie and Christopher. Either that, or tone down Julianne’s behavior, so Randolph could plausibly not realize what was going on under his own roof.
I felt the story turning suddenly dark when Christopher hammered that second spike into Annie’s wrist (or was it her hand?). This was an effective scene. But it unsettled me in a way that was not quite earned. It was as if you changed the rules. The reader suddenly learns that horrible things are in store for the protagonist. But you haven’t sufficiently prepared the moment and the reader’s mind rebels against this turn, which feels less like fate than a plot device. I feel the third act could be even more effective if you gave us earlier glimpses of the darkness in the souls of all three principal characters.
Don’t let my notes below discourage you. This is just my in the moment reaction to your script. On the whole, it was very well written, with good potential to get sold and made into a movie.
By the way, you can come up with a much better title. Murderer's Creek does not resonate with me at all and seems to have nothing to do with the story.
p. 1-2 – Those big blocks of voiceover narrative on the first two pages are really off-putting. What’s more, it doesn’t add anything to the story that I can see. I’m not even clear about the timeframe here. Is Randolph relating this before the main events of the story or after? In either case, I don’t see the point.
p. 1 – she/it – pronouns disagree.
p. 11 – Ferrell goes on too long.
p. 12 – I’m not buying it that Annie’s reading Psychopathia sexualis. Or maybe it’s the way she talks about. The Young Minor’s dialogue in this scene seems even more out of character.
p. 20 – “Afternoon Sheriff.” This is how Annie greets her father after years of being away? The interaction in this scene is so odd, I had to read it several times, then go back and check to make sure they are father and daughter.
p. 20-22 – A lot of directions here for essentially nothing to happen.
p. 23 – “You’re with the buzzard.” If this is a joke, it doesn’t work. I had to stop and read it several times before I got it and even then I’m still not sure.
p. 24-26 – Ferrell plays it too dumb in this scene. He comes across as a foil for Annie. Annie is also coming across as a bit of a caricature in this scene.
p. 26 – Annie is unbelievable on this page. She talks like she comes out of the late 20th Century.
p. 26 – “You’re going to have to think like him.” Not only does this sound 20th Century, but it’s a big cliché.
p. 37 – “Careful, might actually think you care.” Another example of Annie speaking out of character.
p. 40-41 – Effective murder scene.
p. 43 – “Kid took the car.” Is this supposed to be ironic? Whatever the intent, it’s disorienting and halts the read.
p. 44 – “with its exciting murders and such then?” This isn’t the character talking; it’s the writer setting up Annie’s come back line.
p. 48 – Is it possible that nobody noticed the bodies were drained of blood before Annie points this out?
p. 51 – I’m guessing Christopher is involved in the killings.
p. 52 – Christopher dips his brush in a jar of something “RED—not paint.” Blood is obviously blood, if that’s what you’re implying here. It can’t be mistaken for paint. Besides, why give up the identity of the killer less than halfway through the story?
p. 54 – This scene of sudden violence culminating in Trip’s killing of an anonymous character seems to come from nowhere. Randolph’s mini speech that follows is clichéd and on the nose.
p. 56-58 – The creaking of the bed and Cowboy in the hallway seem too brazen to me. It’s hard to sympathize with Annie here because Julianne comes across as the stereotype of a sluttish evil stepmother, rather than a real person.
p. 63 – I’m not sure what makes the girls hide from Vaughn. This might work better if there was a brief set-up scene where Annie warns them that there is a bad man on the loose and if anyone approaches them at home, they should lock the door and hide.
p. 64 – This is an effective scene.
p. 70 – The “legendary Julianne Randolph?” Lurid and not believable. This town seems too small for the Sheriff’s wife to set up a whore house in his home without him knowing about it.
p. 73 – Good use of suspense here as Vaughn returns from the stable wiping hands of blood.
p. 73 – Vaughn has amassed a lot of equipment in his shop for someone who has been in town only a couple of days. Or did I misunderstand something here?
p. 75 – “Did I fail you?” – This and much of the dialogue that follows in this scene seems on the nose to me.
p. 77 – Annie’s little sisters are missing and for all she knows dead or in the hands of a homicidal maniac. I can’t picture her greeting the rising sun with a yawn.
p. 80 – Why is Annie so hostile to the Blond Whore? When she said her best friend was a victim of Jack the Ripper, I assumed she’d done some whoring herself. So I don’t get this attitude. (Annie’s attitude makes better sense given the big third act reveal.)
p. 82 – “Darn tooting!” Rather glib of her considering her sisters may be dead or tortured. I think you need a deeper sense of gloom hanging over this scene.
p. 82 – Why is it a “long shot” that the brand might hold some significance? Surely, this would have occurred to them earlier in the story. And what about the new fellow in town – the blacksmith? Wouldn’t he have been a suspect from the start?
p. 88 – Better to show us the bottle of moonshine in the saddlebag beforehand so it doesn’t appear Deus ex Machina at exactly the moment Randolph needs it.
p. 90-91 – Effective voice over from Trip’s hanging.
p. 94 – No big surprise that Christopher is the principal killer. But I don’t get why Randolph wasn’t able to beat the truth out of Vaughn. And it makes even less sense for Christopher to leave Vaughn alive in the cell now that he’s been captured.
p. 96 – The nailing to the cross looks pretty grim for Annie. I wasn’t expecting this. Not sure how I feel about it.
p. 100 – The crucifixion scene – good.
p. 101 – Now the nail is in Annie’s hand. This is important, because she stands a better chance of surviving spikes driven into her hands, than in her wrist, as first written.
p. 104 – OK. Vaughn is Christopher’s brother. That’s why he didn’t give him up to Randolph earlier and why Christopher didn’t kill Vaughn to silence him. That makes sense.
p. 108 – I can almost buy that Vaughn might be able to stab himself in the neck with a pencil, but not that he would have the ability and will to carve a T in his cheek with it.
p. 109 – I think you need a better build on Ferrell’s suicide to make it more convincing. I didn’t see this in his character.
p. 112 – Annie butchered Julianne after she gave birth… That kind of makes sense.
p. 113 – Annie is Jack the Ripper. I guess this works. It certainly explains many things – Blond Whore’s death, the butchered cow in the opening scene, Annie’s connection to the Ripper victims.
p. 116 – Great ending. Loose ends nicely tied together. read
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