One of the things I've been doing for a long time (several years) is collecting data from movies' synopses as I see them. The four things I usually collect in lists are:
1. Characters (examples: alien family, legendary director, intruder)
2. Settings (examples: boys' boarding school, 1900s countryside, hokey small-town Missouri)
3. Inanimate Items, both concrete and abstract (examples: new film, secret experiment, fame)
4. Actions (examples: goes through advanced training, overthrows the emperor, gives up)
Typically I use these as writing prompts for myself. I randomize the list, toss a couple of these together ("an alien family at a boys' boarding school goes through advanced training involving a secret experiment") and come up with a short story, either to become something real later or to just get me writing. But more recently I've also been playing around with a sillier use for them.
I've been looking at new theatrical releases on IMDb, looking at their synopses, and swapping out the elements in them with elements in my own.
For example, the IMDb synopsis for The Boy Next Door says this:
Shortly after getting a divorce, a woman falls for a younger man who has recently moved in across the street from her, but their torrid affair soon takes an obsessive, dangerous turn.
So I replace "newly divorced woman" and "younger man" with new characters, "getting a divorce" and "has recently moved in across the street from her" with a new action, and "torrid affair" with a new item to get this final masterpiece:
Shortly after finding love, a magical shapeshifting raccoon falls for a goofy producer who picks up girls, but their aesthetic soon takes an obsessive, dangerous turn.
Some of these are more coherent than others, but here I present to you my favorites.
A Victorian-era miser, an extraterrestrial enemy, a God-fearing bluesman and a snobbish investor, and their misadventures sparked by the battle over a powerful toothbrush.
A documentary that tells the story of suburban Connecticut's famous New Yorkers through the eyes of a troubled couple.
A group of recruits travels to the last day of high school in search of a destructive meteor. Finding themselves lost and alone in the afterlife, they meet the duke's son, who deals with a bully.
Alice, a Kermit the Frog look-alike, starts to struggle to come to terms with her personal problems. When she decides to skip Christmas altogether, Alice and her family are sent to the past.
Four Judas Iscariots uncover a Russian plot. With 100,000 Deutschmarks, dream-sharing technology, the Watergate scandal and a paragliding accident, they are merely a figment of a hallucinatory imagination.
As a young girl is interviewed by Samwise Gamgee, it becomes increasingly clear that she is is still listed in his little black book.
In Thailand, the disappearance of a hero draws together three children, a recently deceased ghost, and a dark lord in Vietnam.
(That sounds like it could be a real story.)
In the first summer out of high school, a good girl is faced with the apocalypse during 1978.
In a nuclear attack, a wild young woman is forced to fight the outlaws when she blows their cover. She recruits James T. Kirk to rebuild her team, but the man's chaos brings further misfortune.
(This is the plot for Star Trek 3.)
The art curator Angela is rescued from southeast Asia and taken to a small English town to buy an eight-millimeter movie camera. However, it is unbeknown to the mobsters that she makes his world a better place.
After a near-fatal daring robbery in the lost continent of Atlantis, three women named Louis spend a harrowing 47 days in a luxury cruise ship with two tellers before they're caught by the shy young man and sent to surburban Cleveland.
A brilliant professor and the lust of the world of prostitution that changed Houston for ever.
Nasty mother Chris's artificial intelligence saves countless lives in a news satire program and turns her into a not-so-bright man. Back home to his sparring partners after four disfiguring facial scars, however, Chris must retrieve the book of the dead.
A drama about the special gadget-laden tuxedo of woman Margaret, her public-access cable show in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe, and the subsequent island culture she had with her galactic emperor, who begins to disintegrate in international high school.
Emperors Charlotte and Caroline both fall in love with the imprisoned Monkey King Friedrich. Joining an eccentric pop band, they decide to dress as police officers. What begins playfully soon turns serious as it leads to the end of job pressure.
An agent is forced to engage in a war against a dead husband and keep the terrifying Rocky Balboa from acquiring precious long-life treasures and obliterating all of a small town in Italy.
When his wife unexpectedly informs him that she is trying to survive, American intern Otto finds himself thrust back into the last day of high school, where he travels to Hong Kong.
A defiant group of scientists rise up against an Egyptian pair of aging boxing rivals, setting 600,000 cute wives on a monumental journey of escape from an apartment complex and its terrifying cycle of energy experiments.
The lady of his dreams tries to make it as an ailing son when her temple monk fiancée talks her into being forced to rely on a deer.
In lower class Las Vegas, Mr. Spock investigates the disappearance of a struggling salesman.
(Star Trek 4?)