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Finally, a bit of good news for those in favor of arming Eddie Murphy and unleashing him on unaware California residents. Jerry Bruckheimer, the megaproducer behind the Pirates of the Caribbean films and so many Michael Bay productions, has decided upon his new post-Disney partner, and it is Paramount Pictures. Many giganto-huge blockbusters will surely stem from this new partnership, but the first are to be Top Gun 2 and a Beverly Hills Cop reboot. Both have been talked about for years, but now 26 years later we’re finally on track to see an aged Tom Cruise ejecting himself from a series of aircraft — and yes, according to Deadline, both Cruise and Murphy are set to return to these new installments. It’s the same old story. Movie was popular several decades ago. Now it’s being redone. But the difference here is Bruckheimer, who was a producer and major creative force on both the original Top Gun and the first two Beverly Hills Cop installments. Will it change things now that he is rebooting his own babies and not, say, radio show characters from almost a century ago? (The $190m hole The Lone Ranger left in Disney’s pocket is considered one of the major reasons Bruckheimer was given the boot.) His affection could make a difference. The man may want to ensure that his earliest hits are given the care and respect they deserve, but Bruckheimer is also a very different producer than he was then. The Bruckheimer of today, who traffics almost […]

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Superman Batman and Wonder Woman

There’s a wacky political theory (hear me out and stop yawning) that commercials for presidential candidates don’t actually do anything. The thinking is pretty simple: since commercials only increase name recognition, and the people running for the highest office already have a metric ton of name recognition, candidates spend hundreds of millions to move the needle not at all. Strangely, no campaign has ever had the brass buttons to give us a real-world test of the theory. The movie studio corollary is fairly simple to spot — particularly in an age where the name of your franchise is theoretically far more important for your movie’s potential popularity than the name of the actor playing the part. We’re in a post-star era, but the extent of actors’ diminished effect on bringing in fans isn’t really clear, leading to an important franchise question. Would it really matter who played Superman? Batman? Wonder Woman? Katniss? That Sparkly Vampire Guy? Actors have already caught on to the phenomenon and capitalized on it by extending their profiles into the independent world, going as far as ensuring financing for small films that otherwise wouldn’t be made without them. Best of all, they do this without risking their “personal brand” as “big time movie stars” at all. In that sense, the shift has been freeing, and it can be freeing for studios, too, as they become more comfortable choosing from outside the same 10-name list for higher profile roles. In the best case scenario, it’ll give directors […]

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CUMBERBATCH_STAR-TREK-INTO-DARKNESS

When Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof finalized the script for Star Trek Into Darkness, they made a bold decision (presumably under the guiding hand of J.J. Abrams) to include a twist not based on information delivered in the movie itself, but based on real-world knowledge of the series’ history. When the destructive John Harrison reveals himself, in fact, to be Khan midway through the story, it’s an unnecessary twist designed specifically and solely for fans who knew who the hell Khan was to begin with. In an alternative universe where the simple act of making a Star Trek sequel didn’t bring Khan to every film journalist’s mind immediately, it could have been a magic moment, but it was also always destined (in every universe) to be a head-scratcher for those outside the know. They didn’t spend the movie building up the mythos of Khan — they spent the movie displaying how vicious “John Harrison” could be and then revealed, gasp, that he had another name! It was a reverse Keyser Soze. Just like that — poof — John Harrison was gone. Which is what makes Abrams’ room temperature regret about lying to the press about Benedict Cumberbatch playing Khan leading up to the film’s release all the more bizarre.

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Starring Kellan Lutz

Many a year ago, Taylor Kitsch was lauded as the next great male heartthrob. Then came John Carter. Then, Battleship. Now, he’s lucky to have landed a role in Almost Heroes 3D, the next animated feature from DigiArt Productions (which sounds more than a little like an accredited online institute). Kellan Lutz has clearly been studying under Kitsch’s wing- stepping into the spotlight as a somewhat generic megahunk with the Twilight films and Immortals, then plunging immediately downward. The actor may be a part of the next Expendables film, but so is every other male actor in Hollywood; the only two starring roles he’s got lined up now are a couple of low-budget clunkers. Neither Hercules: The Legend Begins nor Tarzan 3D have a whole lot going for them. So let’s start with Hercules, shall we? The film is already in the unfortunate position of going up against Dwayne Johnson‘s 265 pounds of mythical Greek fury, but a look at the newest trailer (which comes courtesy of Yahoo) only make the situation more dire. The Legend Begins mixes equal parts 300, Gladiator and Spartacus, as the mythical son of Zeus is forced to test his legendary strength in the gladiatorial arena. He’ll build a rapport with the crowds who munch popcorn and await his gruesome demise (Gladiator) and test the bounds of film editing as he abruptly switches from slow-mo, to fast-mo, to slow-mo once more (300). You can’t really hold this against Lutz. Hercules: The Legend Begins just looks like old […]

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Transformers Age of Extinction - Empire Cover

The new-fangled Optimus Prime plays cover model on the latest edition of Empire Magazine alongside Transformers: Age of Extinction co-stars Mark Wahlberg, generic white tough guy #37 and some sort of Alyssa Milano/Tara Reid hybrid. The image had a strange effect that crept up on me, and it wasn’t until staring down the replacement cast for a few moments that I realized what it was: this could be the announcement of a brand new franchise. As in, a first-look at the never-before-attempted adaptation of the 1980s toys into live-action Bayhem. Like Shia Labeouf and the worst last name possible never happened. Like Megan Fox was just a dream. A reboot in the truest sense. And isn’t that what all reboots futilely attempt to do? They often crop up just minutes after we saw the last of them (hence the futility), but Transformers might be uniquely situated to effectively use the little red blinky light thingy from MIB on its audience. Granted, I wasn’t really a fan so I don’t think about the series all that much, but with a backbone of CGI characters and disposable humans, Michael Bay‘s Magnum Optimus is well-positioned to shoot amnesia bullets at us. For a moment, it worked on me, and it was like seeing the big screen leader of the Autbots for the first time. [Empire Online]

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the girl with the dragon tattoo

In addition to being admittedly subjective, the idea of ranking the best or worst book-to-film adaptations is a fruitless effort for at least one other reason: there’s nothing consistently being judged when making this determination. Most list-makers seem content simply picking the best/worst movies that happen to have been based on a book (or short story, novella, etc.), but that has no bearing on the quality of the actual adaptation. For example? Spike Jonze’s aptly-titled Adaptation, with a script by Charlie Kaufman, is an absolutely brilliant film, but you’d be hard-pressed to call it a good adaptation of Susan Orlean’s non-fiction book, “The Orchid Thief.” Even acknowledging that movies and books are different entities, it would be a ridiculously loose interpretation of the word to say it’s a success on that front. To a similar but lesser degree, you could make the argument that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a classic of atmospheric horror while at the same time being a poor adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. This has been a roundabout way of introducing the latest attempt to rank adaptations, one that finds a slightly different angle while simultaneously introducing some new wrinkles. The UK’s Total Film has posted “50 Movies That Were Better Than The Books,” and ignoring the fact that the title implies these movies are no longer better than the books, the list is chock-full of head-scratching hilarity. Of course, this is the same site that ran a list a few months back of “50 Movies That Are Longer […]

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Its a Wonderful Life

If It’s a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story actually gets made, it will best Bambi II in creating the longest gap between a feature film and its sequel with at least 68 years spanning between Frank Capra’s joyfully depressing experiment and whatever the rest of the story will be. That is, if you don’t count 1990′s Clarence as a true sequel. Or 1977′s It Happened One Christmas. That’s right. Those pulling their hair out over the announcement of the sequel project might appreciate a terrifying reminder that this particular “sacrosanct” piece of culture has already had two sequels that exactly no one remembers. Granted, both were made-for-TV movies (calling into question their true sequel status, if you’re nasty) and neither were particularly noteworthy for their art. But at the very least, they can offer people slapping their foreheads hope that The Rest of the Story too shall pass. Plus, they’re pretty fascinating. Leave behind the very fact that productions already attempted continuing the George Bailey story (and that we erased them from our memories), and you’ve still got a gender-swapping attempt co-starring Orson Welles next to a post-Revenge of the Nerds Robert Carradine as a young, future Clarence the angel. Fortunately, the internet has video.

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Blockbuster Video

When the Blockbuster was built down the block from my house, it was a game-changer. Not because it was the first store in our city (we’d been renting movies there and elsewhere for a while), but because it made it that much easier to see movies. The indulgent chore had become a quick bike ride or an even quicker car ride with my folks to the brand new strip mall just beyond our neighborhood. The ritual became wandering through the aisles searching for VHS gold before going next door to Marble Slab for ice cream and a frozen juggling show. The time-marches-on appropriateness of that memory isn’t lost on me now as I have two Netflix envelopes and a mile-long queue sitting on my physical and digital shelves receptively, and even though it’s only for nostalgia’s sake, it’s still slightly sad to see the blue and yellow brand go. It’s understandable that not many are mourning now. As a matter of practicality, it’s difficult to keep the dirges and funeral pyre flames bursting this long, and as a matter of principle, Blockbuster is still rightfully viewed as the corporate behemoth that pushed moms and pops out of the temporary entertainment business. The thing is, we didn’t have the luxury of a mom and pop video store where I grew up, so that behemoth was the warm bosom where I convinced my mom to rent The Secret of NIMH 3 times before she broke down and bought it, where I blind-acquired Monty Python’s The […]

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francesha03

I spent 30 minutes last night watching Frances Ha before I turned off the movie. I wasn’t into it. I just didn’t care for the characters or story I was watching. I appreciate that it’s considered a great film. I even enjoyed little bits, namely Adam Driver seemingly transformed into Jean Paul Belmondo (with a touch of Stranger Than Paradise‘s John Lurie and Richard Edson) simply by putting on a hat. The cinematography is terrific. Maybe it is a great film. Because I didn’t finish it, I can offer no criticism of the whole value of Noah Baumbach’s latest. I am only at liberty to state that I gave it a shot and didn’t like it enough to continue. That’s my prerogative, right? Given that a lot of the basic praises the movie is receiving in terms of people loving it, regardless of whether it’s a great film or not, I feel okay putting it out there that I just don’t. Still, I wonder if it was too easy for me to walk away — or “walk out,” if we want to make it about the movie experience. It’s hard to believe that I would have enjoyed Frances Ha any more if I stuck with it the remaining 50 minutes, but at least I could be better qualified to discuss it as a work of art. After Tweeting that I turned it off because I didn’t like those 30 minutes I felt like I had judged the Mona Lisa after only getting […]

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Wonder Woman by Jeff Chapman

The Wonder Woman movie must be setting some kind of record for most chatter about a movie that hasn’t even been announced yet. I’m as guilty of contributing to that as anyone else, considering my earlier piece for FSR that laid out some of the challenges facing that film. This week’s fuel for blogger speculation comes from some statements made by Thor: The Dark World actress Jaimie Alexander. Her role as badass warrior Sif and her raven hair already made her a frontrunner on many fanboy casting wishlists for Wonder Woman. All it took were a few cryptic statements from her about knowing the basic story of Batman vs. Superman and rumor-mongering sites started spinning stories about how she was a front-runner for the role. As ridiculous as it is that these rumor crumbs blow up into full-blown scoops, it speaks to how much anticipation there is for a Wonder Woman movie. At this point, such demand is taken so much as a given that I was surprised that I’ve seen little consideration of why people are convinced Wonder Woman merits a feature film. Is it because of the character – or because of what she represents?

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news star blazers

This just in from the Department of Unfortunate Developments, Christopher McQuarrie has been announced as writer, director, and producer of a big-budget, Hollywood remake of Star Blazers. “But Rob,” you’re thinking or possibly saying aloud to yourself while sitting in your workplace cubicle or restroom stall, “aren’t you a big fan of both McQuarrie and the seminal animated series from Japan that first showed you what it was to become emotionally invested in human cartoon characters?” Okay office weirdo, I’ll bite.

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In Time Movie

Early this year, Nathan Harden wrote about a bubble on the verge of bursting, saying that “Big changes are coming, and old attitudes and business models are set to collapse as new ones rise. Few who will be affected by the changes ahead are aware of what’s coming.” He was writing about higher education and the migration of university curriculum’s to the web, but he could have just as easily been talking about the film industry and our relationship to it as viewers. The parallels — particularly the emerging dominance of schools releasing lecture content through online networks — are apt. Minus the “free” part, of course. We all know about Steven Spielberg’s prescient-sounding condemnation of the top-heavy studio structure, and it’s easy to imagine as we watch the landscape of studio offerings roll by with their capes in hand that a fundamental shift in focus has already happened, but Harden’s piece got me thinking not of the content being created, but the structure of the movie’s themselves. Specifically, the 2-hour average hero’s journey that represents the most-typical formula. Approximately a billion thinkpieces have been written on the internet’s encroachment into the stale-as-popcorn atmosphere of the movie theater, and they all come to the conclusion that something big is going to happen. My question is whether movies will be able to survive in their current form when that paradigm shift happens. My guess is that we’ll have to greatly expand what we think of when we think of “movies.”

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escape-bench

Yesterday a fight broke out over who is killing movie theaters. Throwing the first punch was Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who gave a keynote address at the Film Independent Forum in L.A. “I’m concerned that as theater owners try to strangle innovation and distribution, not only are they going to kill theaters, they might kill movies,” he said regarding the industry’s protest of VOD releases being day-and-date with theatrical openings. Soon after, National Association of Theatre Owners president/CEO John Fithian countered with a weak blow of: “Subscription movie services and cheap rentals killed the DVD business, and now Sarandos wants to kill the cinema as well.” As a former longtime employee of the movie theater industry, I can say with some certainty that the most lethal enemy of cinemas is cinemas themselves. Sure, there is a lot to say about the convenience of lazily staying home and clicking the remote on our cable box or Roku or Xbox or using our smarthphones or tablets to watch a brand new movie in our beds with no pants on. But at some point Fithian and the rest of NATO’s scapegoating curmudgeons need to realize that going to the movies isn’t necessarily about the movie on screen. It hardly has been for the better part of a century, in fact. Moviegoing is an experience. That’s what NATO should be focused on, and much of that focus will always be on pressuring its theater chain partners to maintain a better quality experience […]

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Beetlejuice

Tim Burton had a bizarre start to his career. He spent over a decade making short films and dabbling in conceptual design and puppetry, but he broke out quick with a big screen adventure for a man-child TV star. He then delivered a ghoul for hire before transforming that same actor into a superhero who has become the center of a multi-billion dollar franchise. Burton graduated quickly, and he did it with some head-shaking choices. Now there’s a rumor that he’s interested in directing a sequel to Beetlejuice (that presumably doesn’t go Hawaiian). It’s not all that surprising considering that he gave his tacit blessing to Seth Grahame-Smith‘s desire to create a blueprint for a new adventure with the animated corpse nearly two years ago. When we spoke to Grahame-Smith shortly after that development, things were all still tentative, but the screenwriter wanted to be careful about engaging both Burton and Michael Keaton to ensure that the project had the bare bona fides necessary not to get laughed out of the room. Common wisdom would seem to say that Burton should and will stay away from the director’s chair on this one. He’ll take a producer credit to keep fans from totally wetting the bed, but his true involvement will be as an old master letting some young pupil snatch the pebble from his hand, and then opening a gallery show of his conceptual set designs at the Bell Lightbox. Common wisdom would also say that a rut-stuck Burton doesn’t […]

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Nobel Theater

There is no Nobel Prize for Cinema, but there should be. Not that it’s anyone’s fault, of course. Alfred Nobel put aside the funding for the five prizes (Medicine, Peace, Physics, Chemistry and Literature) in his will, and he died in 1896. It seems entirely likely that the Swedish inventor and philanthropist never even saw a single film projected in his life. Why would he set aside some of his fortune to reward the practitioners of an art form that had been around for less than a decade? I suppose one could leave it at that. Tough luck, cinema. But in 1969 the Swedish Academy began giving out the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. If they can grant an annual award to a fake science, then they can certainly do the same for an entirely real art. What would such a prize look like? It should probably take most of the parameters of the Nobel Prize in Literature, which is the only current award that recognizes artists. The aren’t really specific criteria, except that the recipient has to be living. The list of prior laureates is international and interdisciplinary, including novelists as well as poets and playwrights. And, most importantly, the prize is given out for an entire body of work. Individual books have been included in citations, but that’s rare these days.

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Superman and The Joker

It’s totally fine for Superman to kill people. He’s done it before, he’ll do it again, and in every instance he’ll most likely have strong reasons for doing so. Obviously this question came up over the summer when Man of Steel hit theaters, but it has sustainably permeated the cultural conversation and returned with enthusiasm now that writer David Goyer has weighed in on the subject. Fanning the flame wars of a divisive issue, it’s launched a thousand opinions from those standing their ground on why Superman (as a representation of God, or America or merely the best of the superheroes) shouldn’t take lives. The intention is understandable and powerfully compelling, but it’s still wrong.

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GRAVITY

With less than a week left before Alfonso Cuaron‘s Gravity hits theaters, you’re likely to see an increase in the already heaping mound of raves claiming it’s the best original sci-fi film of the year, if not years. The problem is that this is not sci-fi. I’ve been having minor debate about this for weeks now, and there are numerous critics and non-critics, both people who have seen and haven’t seen the film yet, on each of the two sides of this argument. At the end of the day, you can say I’m being too stubbornly semantical. That the genre doesn’t even matter these days. But this is a movie involving science, and science itself deals a lot in classification and semantics, so I feel it perfectly appropriate to stand firm on genre categorization with this one. And I keep cringing every time I see the term sci-fi or words science fiction applied to this film. Gravity features no aliens, no interstellar space travel, no time travel, and it doesn’t take place in the future. In fact, given that it involves a space shuttle as its method of travel into space, it would seem to be set in a past. And while I don’t know all the technological accuracy evident on screen, I do know the production aimed for this to be a realistic film of the world and science that is or was existing. To me, that’s not sci-fi. Just like Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff, never mind their […]

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When Harry Met Sally

The most recent “X is dead” proclamation comes from The Hollywood Reporter in the form of an obituary for the Hollywood romantic comedy. It’s cause of death, of course, is a lust for an international market and high concepts that play there, but while the article from Tatiana Siegel initially frames the loss with a black veil (the title proclaims that Harry wouldn’t meet Sally in 2013), the reality of the situation isn’t a cause for dirges. Instead, it’s an opportunity for innovation that deserves a marching band. At least two of the filmmakers interviewed said as much. First, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World producer Joy Gorman: “The meet-cute is dead. The only ones that have a chance are ones with a very fresh take.” So the ones that abide strictly to a tired checklist don’t have a shot? Excellent. Second, there’s The Vow director Michael Sucsy: “Audiences aren’t tired of romance; they’re tiring of formulas. There is still a demand, and there always will be, for fresh and innovative stories that are smart and nuanced.” Even as caped heroes take over the entire world, there’s still hope for Harry and Sally.

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Atlas Shrugged 3 Kickstarter

This one might be taken down since Kickstarter forbids projects to use it strictly for publicity, but while it’s up, the campaign for Atlas Shrugged Part 3 provides a lot of ironic joy. Although I can’t really tell if it’s ironic or not. Is it unintentional symmetry when a movie about self-reliance goes asking for handouts? Or is it merely straight-forward comedy when a film series about trusting the marketplace is fiercely batted down into tax write-off zone yet continues not to hear the message? Those are difficult questions to parse, but the one sure thing is that it’s fascinating to watch a movie production admit to trolling its detractors while trolling its detractors. They are aching to be aggressively, negatively supported all the way to the bank. I’m curious to see if it works (even though it won’t). To wit, here’s why the team behind Atlas Shrugged Part 3 says they need crowdfunding:

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Portman - Thor 2 Styled

Last week Natalie Portman said we’d see a female superhero from Marvel on the big screen soon, and Stan Lee said we wouldn’t. Since neither of their last names is “Feige,” both comments come with a dash of salt, but one of them still has to be right. Either the studio is prepping a superheroine lead or they aren’t. Specifically, Portman said that she’d “heard” that both a female and a minority title character were on the way while defending Marvel’s record on strong women. This, shortly after the terrible Thor: The Dark World posters saw her strong character eating her hair. As for Lee, he matter-of-factly noted that, “Probably at one time they’ll make a movie of the Black Widow, but the thing is, the women like these movies as much as the guys, so we don’t have to knock ourselves out to find a female. But we will.” The thing is, he’s right.

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