Seth Grahame-Smith

Lego Batman

Time to rip off this Band-Aid: The Lego Movie 2 is being postponed. I know how you must feel — take as much time as you need to fume, or sob, or ragepunch a hole through a few fully built LEGO sets. According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Lego Movie 2 is being pushed into some shadowy date beyond 2017, because — and here’s the good news (our anti-Band-Aid) — their priority is now a Lego Batman movie. Feel better?

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

The last time we covered the apparently-always-gestating big screen version of Seth Grahame-Smith‘s send-up of the classic Jane Austen novel of (kind of ) the same name, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” it was to include it in a list of eight promised films that still have not been made. The timing was especially compelling, as the January post arrived just one month before the five-year anniversary of the film’s first announcement. Five years. During those five years, the film has been through a number of incarnations, be it in the form of new directors or new cast members, and we’d long accepted (and, in my case, rejoiced) in the fact that it seemed like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was never going to be made. We were wrong. The film has recently ensnared an entirely new cast — hey, and a director, too! — and looks to finally be on the way to the big screen. It’s the feature that just won’t die, the zombie of the Jane Austen world (a world where, let’s be honest, monsters of this sort just plain don’t belong), lurching ever onward. But how did we get here?

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something wicked this way comes

Like it or not,  Robocop 2014 happened and was an arguable success while it half-humanly, half-robotically stormed through the box office delivering justice. And with that justice comes another price: every ’80s movie and its sequel is continuing to get the reboot treatment while we all just wait around and see what sticks. Up next in the time machine is the 1983 Disney classic Something Wicked This Way Comes. The studio is redoing its own material by taking the Ray Bradbury story and giving it to writer Seth Grahame-Smith (Dark Shadows; Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), who will make his feature directorial debut with the project. For those who said “I’m okay” after Fahrenheit 451 and haven’t familiarized themselves with other Bradbury novels, this one follows Mr. Dark, the evil owner of a traveling carnival (is there any other kind?). Dark gets his kicks by bartering with the residents of each town his carnival visits, their souls in exchange for their wildest dreams.

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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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pride_and_prejudice_and_zombies_book_cover_01

While it’s certainly amusing that one of the projects that Hollywood simply refuses to let die is a film about zombies, the long road to the screen for Pride and Prejudice and Zombieshas been so long and so arduous that it simply doesn’t seem worth it at this point. And yet, this is Hollywood, and the adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith‘s “novel” does come with a script by David O. Russell and it does fall under the newly-hot “zom-rom-com” genre that moviegoers seem to like these days (thanks, Warm Bodies). So let’s throw some more money at it and hope it all works out. Deadline Hollywood passes along word that Panorama Media has joined the long list of the film’s producers – including Darko Entertainment, Handsomecharlie Films, and producer Allison Shearmur – to give the project (which still doesn’t have a cast or a director) still more money to get made. Money is cool and all, but you know what’s really cool? A director and a cast. The news also assures us that the film is out to potential directors, but considering that Zombies has already cycled through plenty of potential directors – with Craig Gillespie last attached to direct back in August of 2011, and other names like Russell himself and Mike White on board at various points to helm – that doesn’t mean much. At least this is a small piece of good news for a plagued project that, again, still doesn’t have an attached director or any semblance […]

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Looney Tunes

Given the shoddy treatment Jim Henson’s Muppets characters got through much of the ’90s and the ’00s, last year’s refresher of their property, The Muppets, was welcomed as a huge breath of fresh air. Finally somebody with true affection for these beloved characters gave them a big screen vehicle that skillfully treated them with the respect they deserve. Things are arguably looking worse for Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes franchise than they ever did for the Muppets though. The last time these characters hit the big screen was in 2003’s already-forgotten Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and the last time they felt remotely relevant was when they appeared in Space Jam in 1996. Here is a stable of characters that was beloved for decades, whose earliest animated works are still held up in knowledgeable circles as being enduring pieces of modern art, and we can’t even get them a decent Space Jam sequel? What gives? Hopefully all this is about to change, because the brothers Warner are putting together a new feature for Bugs, Daffy, and crew, and it sounds like they’re taking the The Muppets approach that resulted in that property enjoying newfound relevance. What are the similarities here? Well, according to THR [via Slashfilm], the studio is looking outside the insular animated world and giving the job of putting this film together to people who are known for doing other things, but still have a deep, abiding affection for animated weirdness.

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All in all, this was a decent summer. There were plenty of highs and lows, with zero grand achievements for either sides of that scale. We could argue endlessly about what movies lived up to the hype or which ones totally blew it, but where’s the fun in having that conversation for the thousandth time over twitter? What we all should be discussing is the important stuff, like, how sad Damon Lindelof‘s Twitter feed could get this summer or how many ounces of man sweat we think Matthew McConaughey shed in Magic Mike? These are the real topics worthy of discussion, ’cause who cares why Vickers didn’t run a few feet to the right to easily save her life in Prometheus? Or how on earth Batman survived that nuclear blast when we clearly saw him in The Bat before the blast? These are details we all need to let go of. What you all really need to know is who came out as the winners and losers of this summer season, and I’m here to tell you who.

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Benjamin Walker in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

It’s hard to imagine how Abraham Lincoln could loom larger in the American mythos, but Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter appears to have found an answer. After all, what could compare with the awesome legacy of saving the Union and emancipating the slaves quite like prolifically slaying the undead on your downtime? Timur Bekmambetov’s adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s mash-up novel (the author also wrote the screenplay) offers a vision of Honest Abe (Benjamin Walker) as an avenger hellbent on the destruction of bloodsucker bigwig Adam (Rufus Sewell) and the rest of his kind after vampire Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) murders Lincoln’s mother with just one bite. The movie cleverly reworks both the familiar events of the 16th President’s life and some broader archetypal period moments, and Grahame-Smith and Bekmambetov stick closer to the historical record than you’d think. When he’s not studying the law or romancing Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in Springfield, Lincoln is serially, secretly disposing of hidden vampires. His close companion Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) aids him on his otherworldly mission. Jefferson Davis recruits the undead to the Confederate Army. The tragic 1862 death of Willie Lincoln is given a fresh spin.

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“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is not the most cinematic of books. If Seth Grahame-Smith‘s novel was a completely faithful adaptation, it’d make for a ten-hour movie. In its translation to the big screen, the story has been stripped down to a two-hour, atmospheric, and violent 3D actioner. The director who took on the challenge of bringing Smith’s tonally tricky novel is Timur Bekmambetov, the filmmaker behind Night Watch, Day Watch, and Wanted. Like his previous films, Bekmambetov once again blends both fantasy and reality with his Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He plays with more than a few fantastical and silly ideas, but always keeps them attached to the real world. This time around, though, Bekmambetov gets to capture that style of his with 3D. Here is what Timur Bekmambetov had to say about the power of 3D, how free dreaming and character informs his visuals, and why Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is his Dusk Watch:

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Benjamin Walker in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Poor ‘lil Stevie Spielberg. Come Oscar season he may have a tough act to follow with his Daniel Day Lewis-starring Lincoln pic, the one which probably won’t feature Lincoln’s finest achievements: chopping off vampire heads, marrying Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and getting Anthony Mackie to somehow be your sidekick. All in all, that’s quite the life, as this bloody red band trailer for Timur Bekmambetov‘s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter shows. Check out Abraham Lincoln acting like a “mad man”:

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Dark Shadows and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter don’t fit the bill of your average summer blockbuster. An adaptation of a slightly obscure soap opera about a vampire? We don’t see those often enough in the summer season. A hard-R actioner featuring one of our greatest presidents shredding vampires to bits? That’s another unheard of type summer tentpole. Although Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s names alone can create money out of thin air, Dark Shadows is not the sort of film we often see as a May release, and the same goes for June’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The man partly responsible for these two going-against-the-norm pictures is author/screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith. Grahame-Smith had to tackle some difficult tasks when it came to making these two projects – like making an accessible Dark Shadows film and adapting his own epic and tonally tricky novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Here’s what Seth Grahame-Smith had to say about writing for the screen, the soap-operatic tone of Dark Shadows, and the straight-faced badassery of Abraham Lincoln slaying vampires:

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Seth Grahame-Smith‘s unwritten Beetlejuice sequel is currently a big, fat maybe. As of right now, Smith has only gone as far to discuss the project with the studio, Tim Burton, and Michael Keaton, who all sound game, as long as one small little detail is taken care of: nailing the script. As I spoke to Smith yesterday, it was obvious he knew the stakes involved in doing a sequel to Burton’s beloved classic. I mean, who on earth wants to be the guy responsible for making a lame Beetlejuice sequel? Obviously, Smith doesn’t want that title. “When Warner Bros. first talked to me about it I said there needs to be two things to happen before I would even consider it,” said Grahame-Smith. “For one, it couldn’t be some kind of reboot or remake with a different actor playing Beetlejuice. I wasn’t interested in that. I wanted actual Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice and an actual sequel to the movie. Two, I said I’d only do it if Tim gave it his blessing and guided the process. I got both of those things: Tim to say if there was a good enough script he would help with the development of it and I got Michael Keaton to say, if the script was good enough, he’d be open to doing it.” He continued, “You know, what I keep telling people is I don’t want to do it unless we’re really sure that it’s worthy. The original is one of my favorite movies, so I […]

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter doesn’t exactly pop out as your typical summer blockbuster. To broadly compare it to this season’s offerings: it’s not based on a comic book, isn’t adapted from a toy line, and isn’t a reboot or sequel. All in all, pretty distinct, and I didn’t even mention that the film features one of our greatest Presidents kicking vampire ass. To further add onto that pile, Timur Bekmambetov‘s adaption of Seth Grahame-Smith‘s book is a hard-R summer movie. If you’ve read Smith’s book, then you know it has its fare share of violence. If you haven’t read the book, here’s a good example: it features a vampire slaughtering a baby. Today I spoke with author/screenwriter Grahame-Smith as a part of our summer preview, wherein we briefly discussed how far the film pushes the book’s violence and what type of R-rated material to expect.

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Alice in Wonderland tested my love for Tim Burton, a fandom I am fully aware is unpopular to have online nowadays. His Disney remake was garish, soulless, and calculative, all adjectives Burton’s greatest critics have said of him before. Alice in Wonderland felt like Burton at his most bored and expected, with zero sense of passion on-screen. Yet, with the release of the first trailer of Dark Shadows finally online, it seems as if Burton is having actual fun. Check out the trailer below to see Burton’s take on the material, including Johnny Depp turning down sex with Eva Green. Burton and company have had a tough time expressing the tone of the picture, but this trailer does it nicely: dark, tongue-in-cheek, and silly. Nothing about this screams “box-office smash!”, but that same sentiment could be applied to most of Burton’s hits.

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Unlike our own Kate Erbland, I don’t loathe Seth Grahame-Smith‘s writing with every fiber of my body. In fact, I quite like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a book that’s less tongue-in-cheek than you’d expect. Tonally, it’s challenging material. And based on this first trailer for the book’s cinematic adaptation, it’s slightly difficult to tell which way the film’s going to go. This could either be another Van Helsing or (probably) something we haven’t quite seen before. If one thing’s for sure, director Timur Bekmambetov has nailed the atmosphere of the book. The director’s got a great eye, so it’s no surprise this trailer has visual ass-kicking going for it. Take a look at Abe kicking some unholy arse:

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When it was first reported that David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith were going to begin their producing partnership by working on a sequel to the Tim Burton film Beetlejuice, it didn’t really sound like a good idea to me. At first glance it seems like Beetlejuice is a very specifically Tim Burton movie, and the idea of somebody else working in that universe feels strange and off-putting. Why would you even want to make another Beetlejuice unless you were Tim Burton?  That would be like somebody who wasn’t Quentin Tarantino saying they were going to make a sequel to Pulp Fiction. But when Grahame-Smith said that he would only do the movie if he got Burton’s blessing and if Michael Keaton came back to star as the titular ghost with the most, the idea started to sound less crazy. I mean, seeing somebody else working in this world that is so visually Burton’s vision would still be a little weird, but who wouldn’t be interested at the possibility of Keaton slipping back into one of his most outlandish and iconic roles? I’ve found my skepticism about a Beetlejuice sequel waning over time. And that continues now that there’s some confirmation that Burton is, in fact, going to be involved with this movie in some way. While talking to the people at MTV about his current projects Dark Shadows and Frankenweenie, Burton took a minute to address his own feelings about the developing sequel. On doing another Beetlejuice he said, “I […]

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Boiling Point

There are a lot of good things that can be said about Hollywood. It creates tons of jobs, pumps out entertaining movies, makes art widely accessible and helps balance your LDL-HDL cholesterol panel, I’m pretty sure. There is also a ton of bad shit to be said about Hollywood, or else this column couldn’t even exist. Hollywood is many things, but it’s nothing if not extravagantly wasteful. Whether you want to talk about David Fincher’s obsession over every single detail in his movies (details = dollars) or the fact that Jack and Jill cost $79 million to make, probably because Adam Sandler had to be paid twice, once for each ball his comedy is missing these days. There are dozens of ways Hollywood wastes a buck, but the one in the news today is reckless buying of literary properties. You may have heard that Seth Grahame-Smith has sold another of his books to Hollywood. Unholy Night, which releases next year, will be a revisionist take on the story of the three wise men who are now thieves or something. I don’t know, I’ll wait for the movie. Or not, because while Grahame-Smith has sold three of his revisionist novels, not a single one has made it to theaters yet. You probably heard of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies at Lionsgate or Fox’s adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Heard of them, seen the book covers, but when it comes to seeing any real progress on the films, ha. Never mind. Toss another one of these on the […]

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Oh, come on. Novelist Seth Grahame-Smith has made a fair bit of scratch by plundering better novels and more interesting lives to pen his own ridiculous brand of revisionist history for the page – stuff like “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” – and while both books have sold like gangbusters, neither has yet proved their worth at the box office. The adaptation of Zombies has been passed around Hollywood more often than an old holiday fruitcake, with directors jumping ship left and right and without a locked-in leading lady, and while Vampire Hunter has a great cast and will actually open in theaters thanks to director Timur Bekmambetov, it still remains to be seen just how that will play with the movie-going public. And with a real Lincoln biopic on the horizon, from no less than Steven Spielberg, it’s hard times out there for a zany take on an American president. But it’s not hard out there for Grahame-Smith, who has sold his latest (still unpublished) novel to a studio eager to adapt it for the screen. Are you ready for what it’s about? You can’t possibly be. What else could a writer whose all but desecrated a classic work of fiction and pissed all over the life story of the greatest American president with en vogue vampire lore? Jesus Christ. No, actually Jesus Christ, specifically the birth of Christ. Grahame-Smith’s latest book is called “Unholy Night,” and it focuses on “an action/adventure surrounding the […]

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After it was announced that David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith were forming a production company whose first order of business was to develop a sequel to the Tim Burton comedy Beetlejuice, the biggest question on everybody’s mind was whether they would be casting a newer, younger actor in the title role and treating this film as something of a reboot, or if they would be getting Michael Keaton to once again don the zombie makeup and green hair of the iconic ghost with the most. As it turns out, Katzenberg and Grahame-Smith are very wise men who understand that Michael Keaton, quite frankly, is Beetlejuice. It didn’t even feel right when somebody else voiced him for the animated series and I was 8 when I watched that.

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The production of the upcoming adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. There have been questions about the budget, the schedule, who would end up directing, and perhaps most prominently, who would play the female lead Elizabeth. Pretty much every Hollywood “It” girl you can name has been up for the role, and for whatever reason all of them have ended up turning it down. The production has been through Emma Stone, Mia Wasikowska, Scarlett Johansson, and even Natalie Portman, who has a producer’s credit on the thing but won’t star in it. So, take this news with a grain of salt, but Twitch is reporting that another spin around the casting merry-go-round has landed director Craig Gillespie another candidate for Elizabeth. They say that Gossip Girl star Blake Lively is the new choice, and that an offer has been sent her way.

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-


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