Latest Posts:

Bewitched

Nora Ephron (1993’s “Sleepless in Seattle,” 1998’s “You’ve Got Mail”) is attached to direct and it will feature turns by Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine. Wait, I’m forgetting someone… the most gifted actress in the world, Nicole Kidman.

The film focuses on witch Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman), who decides to move to the Valley. Her father Nigel (Michael Caine), also a witch, doesn’t understand his daughter’s choice: Why does she want to abandon her way of life and become a normal personr At the same time, film actor Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell) has been dumped and kicked out by his wife, Sheila, while his successful film career has taken a serious drop thanks to a film called “Last Year in Katmandu.” The current definition of a Hollywood has-been, he’s looking to revitalize his image and decides to play Darrin in the TV remake of “Bewitched.” He has only two conditions: he gets top billing and they have to cast an unknown to play his TV wife, Samantha. The search for a new face gets them nowhere until Jack spots Isabel in a bookstore. Begging her to take the part, she accepts the offer as she becomes smitten with him. What follows is a series of problems and witchcraft gone wild that threaten the show and their burgeoning off-screen romance.

The sibling duo of Nora and Delia Ephron have done an outstanding job penning this project. While it is a remake at its core, the story is extremely unique and reminds me a bit of “Adaptation.” Yet the concept of “Bewitched” is remade only inside the storyline of the movie. Instead of the current conventional way to remake the classic TV shows (a la “Starsky and Hutch,” S.W.A.T.,” etc…), I found this storyline to be a refreshing take.

With the inclusion of Ferrell’s “SNL” buddy McKay to rewrite the script, I’m guessing Ferrell’s participation in this project is very serious right now, although he is attached to a number of other projects. McKay is the co-writer and director of Ferrell’s upcoming “Anchorman” and you can see where he has inserted his unconventional comedy into the story; there are some dialogue lines you can see his fingerprints on because the Ephron sisters aren’t that off the wall. Even with these two different comedic styles intermingling here, I think they have found the perfect harmony between the spirit of the original “Bewitched” television show and a Will Ferrell comedy— Nowhere does it feel nostalgic or does it dwell into adolescent humor. It’s clever, smart and amusing from opening to conclusion, it moves a bit fast but it’s not frenetically so.

There is one minor flaw in the story here, for all the positive attributes mentioned above. Isabel has two female friends in the script. Her neighbor Maria and her co-worker Nina are so much alike that you can’t even differentiate one from the other. At one point, I thought they were the same person. The best solution would be to drop one of them. Who needs two under-used female characters when you can a very distinct single oner

For those who have read my past reviews, they might have picked up that I’m a huge fan of Nicole Kidman. Isabel isn’t like most archetypical characters Nicole plays. She’s nice, sweet and a bit naive at first. It’s a departure from the strong, independent and intelligent women she normally takes on (not that she isn’t nice or sweet in the bulk of her other roles). She astutely picked something different and it sounds like fun.

Ferrell plays a real loser in this film, one that will be fun to watch for sure. He goes through every emotion in this film, suffering heartbreak, frustration and insult. Then, he goes totally nuts with his movie-star power, a real diva. The whole spectrum of Ferrell is explored in this picture. He’s even a romantic lead at times. Adam McKay has done a phenomenal job tailoring the Jack Wyatt part into a wild and entertaining Will Ferrell role. I’m curious to see how well Ferrell matches up against Kidman. He’s facing up against the most talented actress in the world right now. Can he hold his ownr

Summer 2005 will belong to Michael Caine. His role as Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s loyal servant, in “Batman Begins” is incredibly riveting. In that screenplay, he steals the show. He must have terrific representation because he couldn’t pick a better follow-up then this, another riveting turn for the aging thespian. Shirley MacLaine has a supporting role in this film as well. But while Variety mentioned she was playing Endora, it’s a bit more complicated. MacLaine is Iris Smythson, a respected older Hollywood actress hired to portray Endora on the TV show. Iris is not a witch at all and we don’t see Isabel’s mother in the film although she’s mentioned a few times. Caine’s Nigel begins to hang around his daughter, meets Iris and becomes occupied with her. It’s a fun role for Shirley and she has her share of good lines. Aunt Clara, Dr. Bombay and Uncle Arthur all show up in the screenplay, although I won’t spoil if they’re real or TV characters. But I will say they’re very much like they were in the original show.

There is one more key actor to be cast, Jack Wyatt’s agent Richie. A great choice would be Ferrell’s old “SNL” buddy Chris Parnell. I know he has a cameo in “Anchorman,” but this could be a very good breakthrough and funny supporting role for Parnell. That’s just my two cents.

This summer, “Anchorman” and “The Stepford Wives” will be successes in their own right at the box office; Ferrell and Kidman look to easily repeat the following summer “Bewitched.” This version of the script is dated December 3rd, 2003 and credited to Nora and Delia Ephron. This version of the script (109 pages) also features a rewriting by Adam McKay (here listed as Adam McKay-Ephron, an in-joke). As of this writing, filming is scheduled to begin this summer.

Rating: A-
Share

Spanglish

Here’s the story: Flor (Paz Vega) takes her daughter Cristina (Victoria Luna) from Mexico to live in the United States with hopes of having a better existence. When Cristina hits puberty, Flor decide to changes jobs to keep a closer eye on her offspring. She becomes a housekeeper in the upscale Californian home of John and Deborah Clasky (Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni). John is a renowned chef and Deb is a rich and chic housewife. The clash of culture and language (Flor can’t speak English) serves as the origin for significant events in both families’ life. And, of course, there is a dog that serves as an amusing distraction at points.

Aside from “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed” having ruled the box office this past weekend, it’s an incredible time for cinema. In the next year alone, we’ll have new films by Cameron Crowe, Wes Anderson, Alexander Payne and David O. Russell. These guys are some of the most fascinating voices in modern American Cinema. As if there was any doubt, you need to add to this incredible group the fantastic James L. Brooks. Very few stories have touched me like this screenplay has.

These characters didn’t seem like exaggeration of regular individuals. John and Deb Clasky and their children are real, Flor and Christina are folks I have met. The authenticity of those peoples is the highlight of the picture. I don’t want to spoil too much, but there is one scene that stands out from the rest of the screenplay, where John is having a discussion about collectible cards with his young son Georgie. They are interrupted by a scream from his daughter Bernice. She has the newspaper in her arm and starts reading a culinary review out loud to the rest of the family. She starts tearing up toward a paragraph, which proclaims that her father to be the best chef in the United States. The emotion written in that scene is so palpable it’s extraordinary.

I haven’t been this excited about a script since “Something’s Gotta Give.” It’s one step better then that film.

Let me take a step back a minute to explain the film’s title: “Spanglish” refers to the film’s narrator, Christina, and her tale of how they moved from Mexico to California. “Spanglish” is basically her story. At one point, she’s even asked by Deborah if she dreams in Spanish or English; before her move to the U.S., it would have been Spanish. Now, she dreams in English. To a minor degree, the title also refers to the language mix used in the Clasky family after Christina becomes her mother’s translator for them. Despite the frequent change in languages, it isn’t doesn’t serve as a distraction to the audience. In my mind, it’s perfect. Very early on in the screenplay there’s a great note by the writer: “All Spanish dialogue will be worked hard to provide something extra for the Spanish-speaking…working in tidbits or extra exposition, jokes etc…” How cool is thatr I almost want to learn Spanish just for that little extra.

There’s one burning question surrounding this project: Will James L. Brooks be able to direct two relative newcomers (Paz Vega and Victoria Luna) to convincing performancesr I hope so. Perhaps he can even it bring to the level of being award-worthy. He has always hired very gifted actors for his films and made them give career-best performances, with the double Oscar acting win of “As Good As It Gets” the pinnacle of this. I expect nothing less from him here as well.

This is going to be Sandler’s hardest acting assignment ever. It’s a brilliant follow-up to an abysmal performance in “50 First Dates.” The distinction between those two roles is like night and day. In “Dates,” he seemed to be playing the usual Sandler character, but “Spanglish” requires a bit more thespian work from Sandler. He can’t sleepwalk his way through this role. Can he pull it offr I have no doubt about this. In my mind, he was remarkable in “Punch-Drunk Love” and this film is the next logical step in his dramatic career.

I know Tea Leoni doesn’t have that many fans. I know a lot of people who simply HATE her. Well good news for everybody, you’ll love to despise her in this film. She’s a real b*tch. Her mother – played by Cloris Leachman – is a good comedic relief to her b*tchy persona. It’s disappointing that Anne Bancroft had to pull out of that role due to her health, as she would have been wonderful here.

Nobody believed Adam Sandler could headline a dramatic film. In a few months, he could very well be nominated for an Academy Award. Who could have imagine thatr This draft of “Spanglish” is dated October 31st, 2003, and written by James L. Brooks. The title listed on this draft is “Crazy White B*tches” and credited to Sheri Glippens, a cover for the real work and screenwriter. The film is scheduled to be released this coming winter.

Rating: A
Share

I, Robot

As background, Asimov laid out the three basic laws of robotics in the anthology, which include:

1) Robots must never harm human beings or do anything that would directly harm a human being.
2) Robots must follow instructions from humans, as long as those instructions do not violate the first rule of robotics
3) Robots must protect themselves, provided those actions do not violation the other two rules of robotics

All loom large here.

Taking place somewhere in the near future, Chicago Police Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) lost his left arm when he was rescued from a car wreck by a robot; Ever since then, he’s been resentful of them. His latest case is the murder investigation of Dr. Miles Hogenmiller (renamed Dr. Lanning in the shooting version of the script, this is played James Cromwell), one of the creator of the three laws of robotics. Originally it seemed that he had shot himself, but a hologram of Hogenmiller tells Spooner that this was not the means of his death.

Spooner is helped in his quest to find the true killer by Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), the chief psychologist at US Robotics. His first intuituion is that perhaps the culprit robot is still hiding inside Hogenmiller’s lab, made up of a number of dismanteled robots. He soon finds that is he right, after eventually capturing a robot who calls himself Sonny. The robot reveals that he didn’t kill Hogenmiller; he was too scared to help the poor doctor escape his fate. How could that be possibler Could a robot indeed have feelingsr In the end, it’s a race against time for Spooner to discover who actually killed Dr. Hogenmiller and the secret work he was doing before his demise…

I have to admit of being a fan of Hillary Seitz’s work, as her screenplay for “Insomnia” ranks amongst one of my most recent favorites. She does some solid work here, as this script is strong from beginning to end; writing science-fiction isn’t an easy act, especially from a dense body of source material. Gladly, “Robot” does not become too ostentatious (a la the sequels to “The Matrix”) or too dim-witted (“Paycheck”), nor does she dumb down or explain everything we see on the screen. Of course, this simpleness doesn’t endanger the story, with the plot still very accessible. Ditto this for the mystery aspect as well. I like to think I’ve become an expert at predicting thrillers, but this time I didn’t see it coming (As a hint, it’s just a matter of time before people will start heavily comparing this film to “Blade Runner”). In Seitz’s effort, director Alex Proyas has a solid blueprint to make a good movie; greatness will have to wait until we see the visual side of this story this summer.

Smith has been a longtime favorite of mine, I remember watching “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” during my teenage years. We have seen him evolve on the big screen during the past decade, becoming hugely popular with roles in popcorn flicks like “Bad Boys,” “Independence Day” and “Men In Black.” I’ve always believed he could be a GREAT actor. Despite some recent ill-chosen recent choices (the sequels to two of the above films), we have started to see the serious side of Smith’s acting work grow– like in 2001’s “Ali.” Here, the character of Del Spooner is much more intense and well written then the usual Smith-esque blockbuster part. He isn’t cracking one-liners while kicking some alien/drug dealer/evil scientist’s a**. This time it’s a much more mature and serious character for Smith. I like it and he needs to grab more part like this in the future. More than anything, I just hope Goldsman’s rewrite was to sprinkle this screenplay with a few “Big Willy”-type dialogs to feed his core audience and nothing more than that.

The supporting cast has some intriguing characters. Moyahan has been given what looks to be the generic female part, but she isn’t the usual damsel in distress. Bruce Greenwood plays a shady corporate character, for which he should shine as usual. There’s also some good roles for Chi McBride (as the gruffy police boss) and Cromwell (as the murdered scientist). And I’m really curious to see what Sonny looks like. From what I’ve read on the production it sounds like a robotic Gollum. Time will tell.

In recent years, we’ve been blessed with remarkable science fiction films. Thankfully, “I, Robot” is another strong installment in that improved genre. This undated draft of “I, Robot” is written by Hillary Seitz, who is credited with having rewrote Jeff Vintar’s original version of the script. Akiva Goldsman was later hired for additional rewrites to the project. As of this writing, the project is scheduled to be released July 16th.

Rating: A-
Share

Cursed

He also created “Dawson’s Creek,” which was huge when it started but eventually fizzled in a downward spiral when Williamson departed the series. He disappeared for a while after his directorial debut “Killing Mrs. Tingle” tanked with critics and audiences alike. A big-screen comeback only took four years. He decided to reteam with director Wes Craven who directed the “Scream” trilogy. The project is called “Cursed” and features Christina Ricci, Skeet Ulrich, Jesse Eisenberg and Shannon Elisabeth. We think.

Continue reading “Cursed”

Rating: D+
Share

Fantastic Four

Reed Richards, his girlfriend Sue Storm, her brother Johnny and their friend Ben Grimm are known to the world as Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Girl, The Human Torch and The Thing, respectively. Together they form the Fantastic Four, a group of superheroes who are treated as rock stars and royalty by New York City residents. Becoming superheroes after their space shuttle was bombarded by particles waves, they use their power for the good of the city. This accident they were involved in also apparently killed the fifth member of the mission: Dr. Victor Von Doom.

Here’s the plot of the film adaptation: While local tabloids are desperate to get exclusive photos from their mysterious base of operations in The Baxter Building, Reed has been trying to find a cure for his friend The Thing. As they go about their days, however, strange little robotic bugs have been wrecking havoc in the team’s lives, trying to find their individual weaknesses. And, worst of all, Doom comes back into all their lives, claiming publicly that Reed had known all along of the impending disaster and wanted to test it on himself and his friends. The false accusation causes the team to split. This is all because Doom wants to get his hands on the particle waves in order to create an army of super humans for his country. At the end, of course, the team reunites to clobber Doom once and for all.

It isn’t the best superhero origin film ever written; but it’s definitely a decent screenplay. With “X-2: X-Men United” having washed away all the boredom of the original “X-Men” away, I have trouble remembering how an origin can be a little bit lame. Let’s not talk about “Daredevil” and “The Hulk,” which are nowhere better than this script. The former had a great screenplay that was gutted by Fox, while the latter was one of the most bizarre superhero films ever made. I would rank this draft of the “Fantastic Four” as equal to “X-Men,” but a step below “Spider-Man.” There are certain moments in the story that will be less interesting to hardcore comic-book fans like me, but that are necessary for the normal moviegoer.

The action sequences are fun, but are not the full-scale blowouts that one would expect. Really, I’m not surprised. As one can tell from the recent rumors of Johnny Storm’s flame powers being limited to just coming from his fingertips, Fox doesn’t look to be investing too much in this film. After the sub-par performance of “Daredevil” at the box-office, the studio won’t burn that much of the production budget right from the start of what they hope will be a franchise, but instead nurture it. In this version of the script, the writer found the right mix of comedy, drama and action to make this draft an almost flawless blueprint.

Reed Richards is probably one of the most underwritten superheroes in history. He’s the central character in this comic book adaptation, but he is overshadowed by the loud and obnoxious Thing, the Human Torch’s flamboyance and the royal malevolence of Doom. Yet, the screenwriter manages to beef up Richards’ role enough for the big screen. He gave real serious drama to Richards’ obsession of trying to cure The Thing, it was the driving point of the plot here. Dr. Doom even made it part of his villainous plan. The rest of the writing was perfect. We get the right dose of scientific and funny moments with Reed.

I love Petrie’s rendition of Sue Storm. In the comic book series, she’s the mother figure of the group, but I didn’t find that to be really evident here in the screenplay. That’s a definite breath of fresh air to the characters. She wants to got out dinner and shopping with Reed, nowhere does she want to stay home and knit. Petrie has really tailored that part for the 21st century. I especially loved one piece of dialogue, on why she loves Richards. As she says there, “The man who can mold his body into any shape and have it stay that way as long as he wantsr Trust me: he’s Mr. Fantastic.” Nice bit of innuendo there. Didn’t Kevin Smith write about that in “Mallratsr” Can he stretch every part of his bodyr

Sample bit of Johnny Storm’s dialogue: “What kind of man are your,” asks the boyfriend. “The kind your girlfriend likes,” responds Johnny. Long live Johnny’s cockiness! We clearly see it in this script. It’s exactly how I imagined it would be on the big screen. He’s a kid given way too much powers way too quickly. Kind of like those rich basketball players who just graduated from high school. Johnny in certain moments is a first-class a**hole. Slowly through the story, though, he realizes there’s more then the girls and glory to his role. I also love the ‘legendary’ bickering between him and The Thing. The writer has depicted that love/hate relationship to perfection. Those rumors about Human Torch becoming a cheap version of Pyro (from “X-2”) mentioned above have seriously troubled me. I hope they aren’t true.

My favorite character in this screenplay is The Thing— He’s written to precision. We witness his loneliness early on in the story. There’s a splendid scene in which he’s watching a baseball game in a bar. A girl comes over and they start chatting, we think she’s genuinely interested in him. We discover she only came over to talk to him as a bet for her friends. It’s one of the best scenes in the script. Another highlight of the story is The Thing’s relationship with Alicia Masters, a blind artist. Their exchanges are just amusing and very nicely written. His action sequences are also right on the money.

If there’s one word to describe Dr. Doom, and it’s “creepy.” There’s a moment in this script that totally freaked me out. He kills a little boy who comes to visit his castle. I’m sure Fox would have never allowed that scene to make it pass the cutting room floor. It was downright bloodcurdling.

I’m exceptionally curious to know why Fox had revisions made to this draft. Without a doubt, it would be the perfect screenplay to establish the Fantastic Four team to the moviegoing audience. Jean-Francois Allaire, at 24 years old, has become a respected entertainment journalist, having contributed articles to Scr(i)pt Magazine and writing a monthly column in Screenwriters Monthly entitled ‘The Last Word.’ Hailing from Montreal, this young writer is determined to dig up all the details on the movies before they hit your local theater. We at FilmJerk.com are proud that Jean-Francois has made us his home.

Welcome to my new home here at FilmJerk.com. I would like to thank Ed Havens and Chris Faile for inviting me to join their website, as I’m excited about this new chapter in my journalistic life. Every Thursday, I’ll try to review one screenplay. I’m excited about this new chapter in my journalistic life. DEADPOOL is dead, but J-F Allaire lives. No more fanboyish intros or catchphrases in my column (other than today’s). It’s a new phase in my writing.

Rating: A
Share