Monday, 30 September 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1076: Little Bits...

1. Someone Agrees With Me...


2. Now That's A Long Run...

Producer A.C. Lyles, Paramount's longest serving employee, passed away at the age of 95 after working for the studio for almost 80 years.

Cause of death was extreme surprise after receiving his first net profit participation cheque for the 1957 film Shortcut To Hell.

3. Hollywood Gets Into The God Business...

By hiring director Kevin Reynolds to direct Resurrection, a film about a Roman soldier investigating reports of the resurrection of a recently executed rabble rouser named Jesus.

I can't judge the film's quality before it's even made. But I can harbour worries that it will probably under-perform at the box office. Not because the audience doesn't want religious themed entertainment, but because they don't trust Hollywood to do it right.

4. Breaking Bad As An Excuse...

Breaking Bad wrapped up its five season run to beaucoup ratings and praise from critics and audiences alike.

But some took it as an excuse to use the internet to shit on writer/producer Damon Lindelof over the finale to Lost.

I can see their point.

Breaking Bad's finale embodied the shows central themes very well and tied up the main storyline in a satisfactory manner that fed the audience's desire for a sense of cosmic justice.

Lost on the other hand didn't even bother to tie up any of the hundreds of unanswerable mysteries the writers pulled out of their asses. It just pulled another one out of its ass, said goodbye, and declared that anyone who didn't love it was just too stupid to "get it."

They failed in their job as artists, and then they compounded it by insulting the audience.

That makes me understand the venomous reaction to Lindelof.

However, I don't support the reaction, especially the childish name-calling, obscenities, and other hostility sent to him.

If you don't like someone's work there are two reactions that I will permit when I rule the world:

A. Cogent criticisms where people outline how and where they think things went wrong pertaining to the project in question.

B. People will also be allowed to not buy or watch stuff by creators they don't like.

I heard Lindelof's doing his own version of the Left Behind stories with The Leftovers on HBO. It sounds like a combo of many things that bug me, one of them the threat that it will be Lost redux in the plotlines determined by dice rolls department. So I'm going to exercise my right to not watch it, because I don't have the time to waste.

But I'm not going to hurl shit at him on Twitter for it, because I don't have the time to waste for that either, and neither should you.

If you don't like something, think clearly about it, then write clearly about it. Name calling accomplishes nothing constructive.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1075: This Time As Farce


New Line, a subsidiary of the Warner Empire, has announced a sequel to their comedy Horrible Bosses to be released Thanksgiving 2014. 

Horrible Bosses cost about $35 million to make, and about the same amount was spent on P&A, and it pulled in about $117 million domestic, and about another $92 million internationally for a total take of around $209 million. The makers are hoping to repeat what their mother studio did with the Hangover franchise, or what they would like you to think what Warner Bros. did with the Hangover franchise.


What will most likely happen will be a repeat of what really happened to The Hangover franchise.

What really happened to The Hangover franchise was a bad case of flogging a dead horse and missing what could have been a good opportunity. The first film, like Horrible Bosses, cost only $35 million to make, and about the same to put in theatres, but exploded with audiences to make $277 million domestically. Having such a hugely profitable phenomenon on their hands Warner Brothers ground out a sequel as soon as they could.

That sequel, The Hangover Part 2, cost over $80 million to make, had about the same amount spent in prints and advertising, and pulled in about $254 million domestically. Not a bad return, a little bit less than the first, but not bad.

It's success was based mostly on those who saw the first in the theatres and still felt a lot of goodwill towards the franchise, people who saw it on home video & wanted to catch some of the exuberance expressed by those who saw the first on the big screen. However, after seeing the film, most expressed dissatisfaction, viewing the movie as a simply an exaggerated rehash of the first movie just in a different location.

The third and final flick, The Hangover Part 3 cost well over $100 million to make, about another $100 on prints and advertising, and only made about $112 million domestically. Which is a huge loss. That's because the goodwill the audience had for the people involved in the franchise was mostly spent on the unsatisfactory second rehash film. 

Now you could point to the international grosses and say: "Look, they made a lot overseas, that should make things okay."

Not really.

You see, the studio gets about 50% of the ticket price for domestic releases. Overseas however, they get, depending on the deal for that territory, anywhere between 20%-25% of the ticket price. That's if they're distributing the film themselves and didn't sell the rights to a local distributor to help cover the production costs. Also remember that the distributor needs to pay for prints, advertising and operational overhead in each territory, which can be very expensive.

So overseas ticket sales really determine whether a film makes a good profit and a great profit, or a bad loss and a horrendous loss. Without good sales in North America, foreign sales cannot turn a loss into a profit.

So what we saw with The Hangover was a studio clawing at a shot at repeating the profitability of the first one by spending more and more on sequels for diminishing returns.

Which will probably happen to Horrible Bosses, but probably quicker due to the audience already being jaded by The Hangover.

What could have been done?

One thing most agree is that the people who participated in the Hangover franchise behind and in front of the cameras had good working chemistry.

In the old days when movie-people had good working chemistry they didn't always jump straight to sequels. That was because sequels tended to suffer from diminishing returns, so they only went whole hog if they were pretty sure it could be done affordably and make a good profit.

But if there was a good team, especially in the tough world of comedy, they would try to get them to work again, but doing something different. That's because good comic chemistry is hard to find, and can't be forced. But doing direct sequels ran the risk of tarnishing the team, because audiences will judge it, possibly unfairly, against the giddy thrill of discovery they had with the original.

So they would get them new characters, a new situation, and a new plot. Since most Golden Age stars were under contract and worked for salaries, they didn't have to worry much about exploding star pay affecting their budgets.

This could still work today, since actors tend to offer lower up-front quotes for original films over sequels, and burn more creative calories for original material. If you toss in some reasonable profit participation you might be able to drive down the costs even further.

So if they were to use the team of performers and filmmakers behind a successful comedy movie to make a different movie, they might be able to create a franchise based not on a single title, but on audience trust, which is lacking these days. Manage it well, and it go well beyond three movies before you start flogging the dead horse.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1074: Commissioner Gordon- The Series?

The Fox Network has inked a series commitment deal with DC/Warner Television for Gotham, a series set in the titular fictional city made famous by a certain dark knight named Batman.

Now the series, developed by Mentalist creator Bruno Heller, won't feature Batman. But will centre on a detective James Gordon as he and other cops battle the city's assorted madmen and masked villains and rise up the ranks to the post of Commissioner.

Both DC and Fox TV are hoping to cash in the hype surrounding rival Marvel's Agents of SHIELD which premiered last night. So let's take a minute to look at the PROS & CONS!!

PROS:

1. COMMISSIONER GORDON: Jim Gordon was often relegated as just the exposition guy, telling Batman where there was trouble and who was behind it. However since the 1980s he's been given more of a backstory, and became a more interesting and human character.

2. DRAMATIC POTENTIAL: Gotham is a great setting with great potential. It's a great city besieged by crime, both normal and abnormal, as well gangsterism and public corruption. It's a city beset with moral malaise where decent men have to struggle to maintain their humanity.

3. DRAMATIS PERSONAE: Gotham also has a wealth of interesting characters from the comics that aren't super villains. From bad/good cop Harvey Bullock, police officer Renee Montoya, District Attorney Harvey Dent, and the characters from the cult comic Gotham Central

If the people running the show know and appreciate these creations, they can use them and bring their potential to the screen.

CONS:

1. NO BATMAN: Some may hold not having Batman in the show against it and won't give the show a chance, regardless of quality.

2. NEED BATMAN?: Let's say the show does succeed. It runs seven years where Gordon and his associates successfully fights off the fiends both normal and freakish from destroying the city. Where does this leave Batman, will the city still need him? Will the writers contrive a horrible setback suffered by Gordon and his team that makes Batman necessary?

3. NETWORK & STUDIO: While the show has great potential, it also has tremendous potential to get screwed royally by the network and the studio. You never know what management will do and having a comic book company, a major studio and a network involved creates such pitfalls by the power of three. They might forbid the show from using ANY of the villains, or supporting characters from the Gotham/Batman canon, they could cast a completely inappropriate vapid pretty-boy for the lead, or a million other things you can't imagine because you're not a Hollywood executive with a compelling need to meddle.

Those are the pros and cons I thought of, what pros and cons can you think of?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1073: TV Tidbits

The new fall TV season is starting, and I've manage to catch a couple of the new shows. The first ones I saw were the new Fox sitcoms Dads and Brooklyn 9-9. While B9-9 showed some potential as long as they find the right way to present Andy Samberg's man-child detective. 

Dads however is a different story. It has a good cast, and the people behind the show are supposed to have some sort of comic pedigree, but I found it offensive. Not for its use of negative Asian stereotypes and politically incorrect language for laughs, but because I laughed harder at funerals.



Funerals of people I liked.

The film was a mash of hackneyed plot-lines, cardboard characters, and dialogue that would have been exponentially better if they just set up a camera and let the actors improvise.

It reminded me of the sort of sitcoms Fox made in its early days when it kept trying to rip off its own hit Married With Children, but failed.

My theory behind the show is that the people behind it thought they were being subversive and "meta" by being so hackneyed, but did it without the sort of manic energy and imagination to make being subversive and meta work.

Sleepy Hollow showed a nice bit of bat-shit imagination in its premiere. An intriguing central plot of Ichabod Crane and a modern police Lieutenant battling monsters to stave off doomsday, but runs the risk of slipping into the realm of Lost when they start pulling monsters and mysteries out their ass once folks get bored with the headless horseman.


I'm actually eagerly curious over Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, since I was a Joss Whedon fan since the dawn of the Buffyverse, and would like to see what he does working in the Marvel Universe and what he's allowed to do with it.

I'm also curious to see what happens on the returning Person of Interest, the series that shows how to do continuing mystery-box story-lines right.

Though I must admit that I watch very little network television.

What do you folks think about the new TV season?

Friday, 20 September 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1072: Dear Jerry...

AN OPEN LETTER TO JERRY BRUCKHEIMER


Dear Jerry.

I can call you Jerry right?

Okay, Mister Bruckheimer it is.


In case you might have amnesia due to a freak accident involving a cast iron skillet and a misplaced roller skate I'll do a little explaining. A 'first look' deal is between a major producer, like yourself and a major studio, like Disney, and basically involves you taking projects to Disney first. If Disney passes, you're then free to take those projects to other studios.

It was a sweet deal, giving you a home with the Disney media empire while also giving you the freedom to do projects with other studios.

But now it's over.

Need a hug?

Okay, I'll keep my distance. All the better to give this situation a little dispassionate analysis.

Let's begin with the reasons Disney is giving for dropping you like a hot potato.

Disney says that your projects don't fit in with their new strategy of sucking the life out of the franchises they can squeeze from Star Wars, Marvel Comics, and Pixar. And that you want to do more "mature" projects that don't fit the Disney brand.

Ain't that just a nice little plate of horse-shit.

We both know the real reason Disney dropped you.

It's money.

Or to be more specific the fact that you spend WAY TOO MUCH MONEY.

You spent $300 million to make the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Sure, it made over a billion at the box office, but once you deduct the theatre's nut, the back end shares, and the costs of marketing and distribution, the film would have broken even only if Disney was very lucky.

And that's your problem.

You've been making big blockbuster movies since the 1980s, and a lot of them have broken records.

But not all of them have broken records, and with your budgets having a rate of inflation not seen outside of Weimar Germany, they increasingly need to break records just to break even.

That's not a good business model.

A business needs profits so it can stay in business.

The bigger the profits the better. Because bigger profits means happy shareholders and happy shareholders means a healthy and growing company.

Even when your films do "make money" the margins are usually so thin, you can see through them.

Yes, the movies do get revenues from home video and television releases. But it takes years for that money to come in, especially in the amounts needed to cover the mega-losses that flicks like The Lone Ranger racked up. Plus, you can't rely on people wanting see a movie on TV or on home video, especially when the film has so much negativity attached to it.

All that risk and loss can be mitigated if you had practised a wee bit of self control when it came to the spending.

You know, the sort of thing a producer is supposed to be doing.

Do you see what I'm getting at?

Even your former go-to guy Michael Bay has shown the ability to operate within a reasonable budget as he did with Pain & Gain. Sure, it didn't break any records at the box office, but it didn't have to.

Can you do something like that?

Because you might have to. Studios might be a little hesitant making the sort of deal you had with Disney if they're going to see a lot more money going out than going in. The days of easy cash and a complacent audience is long gone. This may be the age of the blockbuster, but it's also the age of the shrinking audience.

People are staying at home enjoying a golden age of television storytelling. They're becoming more and more selective of the movies they choose to pay money to see, and even family movies can't rely on the repetitive viewing habits of children. Money's a lot tighter in the real world, and you're going to have to show that you can be tighter than two coats of paint to survive in this environment.

I hope you find this helpful.

Sincerely  --  
Furious D.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1071: The Art Of Wrapping Up...

The Fall TV season is just beginning, news shows are starting, but online everyone is talking about a show reaching its end.

Breaking Bad, one of the flagship dramas on the AMC channel, is coming to an end. Unlike a lot of shows it's ending by the choice and design of its creator Vince Gilligan. 

People are eagerly anticipating the show's finale and ratings are going up because the viewers aren't content to let it wait in their DVRs and are watching it live.
Artist's Conception of Vince Gilligan

If Mr. Gilligan's work lives up to expectations, which are high, his show could go down in history as one of television's groundbreaking crime epics. If he fails, it could be a stain on his career that fans may find hard to forgive.

Remember The Sopranos? One of the most honoured and revered shows in TV history. However, the show's deliberately obscure, just stops, finale? Not so much. The only people who defend it are either the people behind it, or folks scared of being thought stupid for not "getting it."

So let's do a little thought experiment.

Imagine that you are the creator-showrunner of a critically acclaimed hit TV show. It's had a great run, but you've decided that now is the time to wrap it up.

But how?

Before you fire up the old Final Draft on your laptop you're going to need to ask yourself these questions:

WHERE DID YOUR CHARACTERS COME FROM & WHERE ARE THEY GOING?

Every show these days has some sort of an arc for its characters. Even television's most rigidly structured procedural dramas feature characters that change and evolve over time.

When it comes time to wrap up a show, and you have a chance to do it properly, you have to look at how they started, how they changed, and where do you think they should end up.

WHAT THEMES ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE SHOW?

Some shows are built around friendship, family, and thus should end on a note that enforces that theme. Some are built around less positive themes, and cry out for a darker ending.

WHAT COURSE BRINGS THE CHARACTERS & THEMES TOGETHER IN THE MOST SATISFYING WAY?

Are your characters on the road to hell or redemption? Are they being brought together, or torn apart? You need to work out how your characters and overarching themes work together to create the most satisfying conclusion.

And let's not forget...

IT'S NOT THE AUDIENCE'S JOB TO 'GET IT' IT'S YOU'RE JOB TO GET THEM.

A thing that annoys me about some conclusions is that when people expressed dissatisfaction the people behind them said variations of: "You just don't get it."

As an artist if you ever feel the urge to say "You just don't get it," slap yourself instead.

Because if you've got the urge to say that it means you've failed as an artist, and are at risk for failing as a human being.

Art is a form of communication that goes beyond the simple definitions of the words being said. If people don't understand what you're saying, and you have to toss a lot of academic sounding baffle-gab to explain why they don't understand what you're saying, then you probably aren't sure what you wanted to say in the first place.

You might think that your art is for you, but without the audience you're not an artist, you're just a dingus writing stuff no one enjoys. You need to make that vital emotional/intellectual connection with the audience, and satisfying them is a sign that you're doing it right.

That's what I think, tell me what you think in the comments...

Monday, 16 September 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1070: Little Budgets Need Big Ambitions

I like low budget movies.

Or to be precise, I like good low budget movies.

I also respect low budget movies with ambition. Even if they're not my particular cup of tea in style, subject matter, or even fail utterly creatively, I can at least respect their attempt to step beyond the constraints of their finances, genre, or talents of the filmmakers.

Take the people behind the Insidious franchise. The first one had a production budget of about $1.5 million, and made about $97 million at the box office, and the sequel Insidious: Chapter 2 has made over $41 million on its opening weekend and judging from audience reaction could at least repeat, if not better the first film's performance. 

It doesn't matter if I like the films or not, I haven't seen them, so I can't judge them, but it does mean that I can respect the ambition and hard work behind them and their success.

However, what I find hard to respect is the trend for making "deliberately bad" cinema as some sort of post-modern ironic form of anti-entertainment.

I can't appreciate such films which the makers see as a license for laziness in almost every aspect. The premises are composed via Mad Libs, you're lucky if the dialogue even went through a first draft, some "I can't believe they hired them" stunt-casting, and loads of shitty CGI special effects that can out-done by an adolescent and their home computer.

There's very little imagination, and very few calories burned to make these films.

So I end this mini-rant with a plea.

Please stop supporting, or promoting deliberately bad movies. There are more than enough inadvertently bad movies released every year, we don't need anymore. Support and promote movies where it looks like some effort was put into the production. Even if they fail, at least respect that they tried.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1069: Invocato a PERNEO

Warner Brothers and author J.K. Rowling have announced that they are working together on a spin-off of the Harry Potter franchise.

Sadly, they passed on my pitch for a movie franchise based on the solo adventures of Voldemort's nose who becomes a private investigator, called I Sniff A Mystery.

It will not involve Harry, Hermione, or Rupert Grint, who I know was an actor, but his name was more fitting for a character.



Instead it will be set in New York during the 1920s, and will no doubt somehow involve jazz, speakeasies, gangsters, goblins, ghosts, ghouls, and other strangeness as it follows wizard Newt Scamander as he compiles his future Hogwarts textbook Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them.

Personally, I have no problem with this. It's not like they're trying to drag Radcliffe and Company into doing another sequel. They're working with JK Rowling to make new stories and expanding on the fictional universe she created. Nobody has a problem with new people previously totally unconnected with the originals working on new Star Wars movies. Actually, that's a bad example with the prequel trilogy flashing back into my mind like a painful repressed memory.

I think the fact that she has about half of all the money in the universe and has successfully branched into other projects and genres means that no studio, poverty, or an egotistical desire for artistic respectability could force her to do something she doesn't really want to do.

I feel that while she may be done with Harry Potter specifically she might not feel that she's done with the world she created for it. 

That's what I think, what do you think?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1068: The Runaway Emergency!


Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti declares a state of emergency near the end of August.


It wasn't over an earthquake, a forest fire, the chronic traffic problems, collapsing or the general sense of discontented malaise that permeates big city life in Southern California.

It was about movies and television.

You see working in Hollywood is like attending a convention that never seems to end. You come, have meetings, make deals, and then go off to a different city and state to actually do the work of making movies and television.

As opposed to the golden age of movies and television when almost everything was shot inside Hollywood today very little is shot in the greater Los Angeles area's famous Thirty Mile Zone.

In case you think the TMZ is just a gossip site I'll do a little explaining.

The Thirty Mile or Studio Zone is the area set by unions to determine if a production has to pay extra for filming on location. Filming inside the zone was supposed to be cheaper and easier, but my oh my things have changed.

The thing politicians like to point and blame for the exodus of productions out of California are tax breaks. These allow runaway productions to legally get out of paying the payroll taxes they would normally have to shell out for the right to employ people in a given state.

While that is a factor, and an important, it's not the whole story behind the exodus. So let's try to break it down...

1. FINANCIAL:

A) Tax Breaks: As I said they're a factor. States are willing to sacrifice a small amount in payroll and other taxes that they hope to make up in income taxes on a couple of hundred highly paid professionals and skilled tradespeople working in their state.

California, on the other hand, has some of the highest state taxes on payroll and salaries, in the USA. All attempts to reform or simplify these systems usually die on the vine.

B) Salaries: Costs of living is much lower in almost every state that is not California. That means that  what qualifies as not-quite-good-enough money in Los Angeles, California qualifies as great money in Baton Rouge, Louisiana or Charlotte, North Carolina. So the salaries and per-diem costs are usually much lower.

C) Regulations: California does not make it easy to do anything in their state. It's regulatory regime is strict, and goes beyond the normal strictures of ensuring health and safety. They require paying multiple fees to multiple municipal, county, and state agencies, as well as hiring above and beyond the actual needs of a production. Agencies in other states, on all levels, tend to be more flexible, easier to navigate, and more affordable.

2. ARTISTIC:

A) The Look: When I was a kid I just assumed from television that all of America was either a traffic jammed sprawl, or a semi-arid hilly scrubland.  In fact, the geography of the USA is much more diverse and filmmakers are taking full advantage of that diversity. Why try to fake a New England town in an area that doesn't look one bit like New England, just go to New England.

B) The Talent: Diversity of location also comes with a diversity of talent, both behind and in front of the camera. It's good to have people who look like they've lived in a small town instead of just come down from Beverly Hills.

C) The Community: It's pretty much guaranteed that filming in Southern California is going to be complicated if not aggravating. Cities are poorly designed, and poorly managed, making working in them an occasionally baffling ordeal. Just dealing with the traffic can make anyone scream. A lot of those problems just don't exist in many other cities and towns.

Now these issues raise a question.

What can Garcetti, as Mayor of Los Angeles do?

Of the many problems that are driving away production are beyond the control of the city government. State finances are a shambles and any and all attempts to reform them are blocked by a wide range of forces. The city government is not much better, if not worse. It also has its own inertia caused by differing factions all wanting a piece of the civic pie.

So while Garcetti's made a nice gesture, it's just that, a gesture. Whether he can do something concrete about it, I don't know.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1067: TV Tidbits

Time for some TV tidbits.

DOES COMCAST KNOW WHAT IT'S DOING?


All last year we heard how Comcast was going to rebrand its G4 Channel, which specialized in tech, games, geeky stuff and reruns, into the Esquire Channel, which will be a more upscale lifestyle brand, in association with the magazine Esquire, natch. They cancelled all of G4's original programming, fired all the employees, and generally burned their bridges with everyone associated with the channel.



Now, in a fit of whimsy, they decided that the fashion-centric Style Channel would now be the Esquire Channel instead.

So what about G4?

It looks like nobody knows. Not even Comcast.

WE'RE OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD, AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN.

There are now four Wizard of Oz themed shows being slapped onto the airwaves.

First came....


1. Emerald City on NBC which puts Dorothy and her adventures in modern day New York City, because New York is cheaper and easier to work in than either Los Angeles or Oz.


2. Dorothy on CBS which is apparently some sort of medical drama.

3. Warriors of Oz on SyFy which is going to be some sort of post apocalyptic action adventure show that will no doubt have the same class and quality as Sharknado.

And now...

4. CW's adaptation of a novel called Dorothy Must Die, which is about Dorothy becoming the dictatorial ruler of Oz, and the rebels who seek to overthrow her.

What do you think about this 19th Century English Gentlemen?


That's what I think too.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1066: The Return of Stargate?

MGM is currently flush with cash, thanks to the success of franchises like James Bond, and The Hobbit, and now they're aiming for a three-peat by re-booting the Stargate franchise.

If you don't remember Stargate, it was the artistic peak for the team of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin.

It starred Kurt Russell as a macho military man, and James Spader as a nerdy archaeologist who lead a team through an ancient alien portal right out of Ancient Aliens, and have to go through a lot of Chariots of the Gods nonsense to save the world from aliens dressed up like Egyptian gods.

The original movie was spun-off into three Canadian produced TV spin-offs, Stargate SG-1 which ran for like forever and a half on basic cable and syndicated reruns, and three relatively shorter lasting spin-offs from the spin-off Stargate: AtlantisStargate: Universe, and a 1 season animated series called Stargate: Infinity.

Now let's look at the PROS & CONS!

PROS:

1. The franchise has a familiar name and the movie and the first TV spin-off has a fan base.

2. The plan of a big screen reboot of what looked like a moribund franchise worked for Star Trek.

CONS:

1. Is that fan base as dedicated as the ones that support Star Trek and Star Wars? The TV shows were a model of dwindling expectations and the last series, though it got some good reviews, didn't last very long. 

2. Will that fan base, whose reaction to the news seems to be a shrug, go to the big screen reboot if it has NOTHING to do with the films and TV shows they knew and loved?

3. The Star Trek reboot sold a lot of tickets because they got JJ Abrams, who had tapped into America's love of lens flare, but the films were so expensive, the profit margins on them were relatively thin.

Does MGM have their own JJ Abrams waiting in the wings for this franchise? Can they take the thin profits from an obviously expensive project like the proposed trilogy?

Now I've proposed my own remake ideas for MGM before, a few times, but they don't seem to be listening to me. So let's play a game. You guys tell me if there are any pros & cons that I missed, and what MGM owned film would you remake and how.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1065: Two Little Drips From My Brain Pan

FOX GOES SWEDISH

Fox TV has inked a deal with a Dutch company called Eyeworks to start a program designed to develop Scandinavian writing talent, like this guy...
Bjorn Borkborg writer of "Bork! Bork! Bork!"
Okay, just kidding.

But there's a very simple reason Fox is doing this.

Money.

Scandinavian thrillers and crime stories are hot right now from best-selling books, to successful TV formats. They are also, unless it's being directed by David Fincher, capable of being produced for under $100 million.

HE HAS A POINT

Michael Douglas says that the major studios are afraid of risk...


He has a point. Not a complete point, but a point nonetheless.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1064: 50 Shades Of Careers?

Dakota Johnson

The internet is abuzz over words that they have cast the leads in the movie version of the "Mommy Porn" best-seller 50 Shades of Grey. Actress Dakota Johnson will play the female lead Anastasia Steele and Charlie Hunnam will play kinky young billionaire Christian Grey that taught a generation of young women that abusive relationships are okay, as long as the man is rich and good looking.


I've written about this project before, first about the overall wrongness of the whole thing, and when they were trying to recruit Harry Potter star Emma Watson for the female lead. If you're too lazy to click the links I'll explain, and might even make some new points.

The first problem is the whole issue of that the film is not really based on a book, but a fad. 50 Shades sold truckloads of books, spawned more than a few imitators, but almost as quickly as it appeared, the whole "mommy porn" genre went from the being the future of all literature to something that readers either claimed to appreciate its poorly written lewdness ironically, or a source of mild embarrassment.

Then there's the psychological aspect. The book sold well because women traditional prefer erotic text, while men prefer erotic images. Movies are by definition images, which means that the film, regardless of its literary pedigree will essentially be a soft-core porn film. 

There lies the problem inherent in selling blatantly "erotic" material that offers little more than its own eroticism...

Women may be turned off by the medium, as well as the potential of sharing the theatre with assorted creepy men in dirty raincoats, and men will stay home and get more graphic material on the internet for free and in private. (Remember, Universal has a small fortune invested in this film, they will not let it get an NC-17 rating.)

So called "experts" like to say that "sex sells" but are loathe to admit that it doesn't really sell as well as it used to. When Hollywood pushes the "sexy angle" the audience sees that and sees through all that sexy nonsense. They know that when they're selling sex they're certainly not selling stories, which is the main reason for investing the time and money required to go to see a movie in a theatre.

Sex is basically a special effect these days.

Then there is the casting.

Dakota Johnson, the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, is at the beginning of her career. This movie could be the beginning and the end of it.

Lest we forget...
Remember Elizabeth Berkeley? She went from the kids show Saved By The Bell to do Showgirls. Showgirls was a relatively big budget production with an "A-List" director and writer, and it was going to make her a big movie star.

The movie tanked, and Berkeley spent years trying to get past being a product of novelty stunt-casting to becoming a working actress again doing guest spots on television.

It could be even worse for Johnson if the movie's successful. Then she'll be pigeon-holed as the "girl who gets nikked," and Hollywood can be brutal keeping an actress from getting away from that. She could end up doing Cinemax and straight to DVD productions and wondering how much cosmetic surgery will she need to keep getting the work that pays for the surgery that keeps getting her work.

And no matter who was cast they will not match the image the readers have in their minds, and each mind sees a different person. Which is not healthy for the movie.

Whether the film will do well or not remains to be seen. I'm not holding my breath about it.