What a difference a week makes.
It was last Wednesday that we published a story about the VOD test that Universal Studios was planning with "Tower Heist," the new Eddie Murphy/Ben Stiller comedy directed by Brett Ratner. In that piece, I wrote "What I'm really curious about is what backlash there might be from theater owners."
Looks like the backlash was immediate and effective.
Universal has now cancelled their VOD test entirely because theater owners threatened to not play the film at all. Universal says they are going to continue to look at new ways to play with what they're calling the "premium home video on demand," or PVOD, and that they still plan on conducting an experiment into the idea soon.
NATO, the National Association of Theater Owners, responded to the announcement with a public statement of their own, saying "NATO recognizes that studios need to find new models and opportunities in the home market, and looks forward to distributors and exhibitors working together for their mutual benefit."
What a difference a week makes.
These days, movie news can break anywhere. Case in point, Tom Rothman using Jim Rome's show to reveal the first major details for "Die Hard 5."
I think Rome does very good work, and there's a reason he's one of the biggest names in sports broadcasting. His radio talk show is gigantic, and he's an incredibly well-known media figure. Even so, it's still odd that Rothman, the co-chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment, would pick Rome's show as the place to unveil the plans for the future of John McClane, the New York City beat cop with the worst luck in the world.
In keeping with the tradition of the series so far, don't expect a number in the title. Instead, Fox has announced this new one as "A Good Day To Die Hard," and they've staked their claim on February 14, 2013 for release. The film will be set in Russia, where McClane goes to try and convince local Moscow cops to go easy on his son, who did something stupid while on vacation. When McClane arrives, though, he quickly realizes that things aren't right, and suddenly two generations of McClanes find themselves confronting terrorists whose actions threaten the entire world.
The first trailer for Marvel's "The Avengers" finally hit the web this morning and we finally get a look and feel of how the movie, and the concept will come together. It's a pretty amazing feat to merge the story lines of five feature films, all with different writers and directors into one singular vision.
Tom Hiddleston as Loki starts the trailer off with some menacing declarations about man being born to be ruled, then some large scale destruction, followed by some VO from Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) explaining the idea behind the Avengers, calling them a "Group of remarkable people" who would be able to "Fight the battles we never could." As good of an explanation as any, no?
With this many huge characters, we can guess that the film will be somewhat montage-heavy, and the trailer follows suit with flashes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and some glimpses of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, and a bit of Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye.
This was a tough one for me.
When I don't like a film, I don't blame the actors. I think actors have a tough gig, and when you're making a name for yourself, you take the work that's offered to you, and you try to do it well. Most actors have little or no control over the material that they're given to perform, and all they can do is try to find some truth in every scene and do their work as well as possible.
Walking into the press day for the new prequel to John Carpenter's "The Thing," I found myself in the awkward position of really liking the cast and really disliking the movie, and I didn't want to make that the focus of these conversations. I view it like this… in an interview, I'm giving the filmmakers or the cast a chance to make their case for the work they've done. In my review, I can respond to that case they've made. My job is not to make these people uncomfortable or to walk in and attack them over their work.
At Fantastic Fest, one of the just plain fun highlights for me that had nothing to do with immediate coverage was attending a midnight screening of Lucio Fulci's "Zombie." I was especially pleased because Eric D. Snider, Portland's greatest bearded hilarious film critic, had never seen the film and agreed to join me for the screening.
I'm not an across-the-board fan of Fulci's. I think he's got his moments, and any short list of the things he got right has to include "Zombie," if only for one of the greatest things ever captured by a motion picture camera.
Yes, I'm talking about zombie versus shark.
"Allen, you've seen three 'Star Wars' movies now."
Allen is three, keep in mind. "Yes."
"Can you tell me what they are?"
"I seen the one with Darth Vader, where they're on the spaceship, and they blow it up, and I seen the one where Darth Vader cuts off Lukeskywalker's arm, and I seen the one where he cut off Darth Maul's body."
"What's your favorite one?"
"'The Phantom Menace.'"
Damn. I was afraid of this.
In the world of big-budget franchise management, the stakes are very high.
When your job is managing an intellectual property, you aren't just telling a story or making a movie… you're creating something that is meant to service something larger. In the case of the "Judge Dredd" property, this is the second time filmmakers are taking a shot at bringing the character to the screen, and they've got the advantage of having seen it done absolutely wrong by Hollywood the first time.
Based on reports that have started to trickle out over the last week, it sounds like they're making all new mistakes this time, and I'm curious to see what happens with the film now that Pete Travis, the director on the film, has been shut out of the process.
I think my dad would have made a badass cowboy.
You know who the toughest men in the West were? Old men. You know why? BECAUSE THEY MANAGED TO GET OLD. No easy trick back then, no matter how you made your living. It was a frontier, and they had to carve a living out of that land. I think my dad would have done that very well, and I think he would have enjoyed it on an existential level. He would have been in his element in every way.
After watching "Blackthorn," the new western starring Sam Shepard, I feel like I've got a much more specific idea of what kind of old cowboy my dad would have been. If I didn't know better, I'd say Shepard spent time with him at some point and studied him a bit. He is a weathered, wise, but still vital man in this film, a guy who has found his place in the world, his role in things, and who is mostly at peace with it.
"Mostly" is the key word, since Shepard's James Blackthorn is a man haunted by something or someone that he ran from at some point, and in flashbacks, we are given pieces of his past that eventually add up to a pretty spectacular reimagining of a real-life Western legend.
When you say "Johnny Depp as Dr. Seuss," the first image that flashes at this point is one of his patented weird-voiced eccentric larger-than-life performances.
That's not who Theodor Geisel was, though, and if Universal and Illumination Entertainment are serious about making a biopic that honors the remarkable life and creative output of this man who has helped shape the early imaginary lives of 50 years worth of kids, then I'm genuinely excited. This could be one of the coolest things Depp is currently attached to, and the hiring of Keith Bunin as a writer indicates that they're treating this as a serious drama, not a wacky kid's film.
I find it interesting that people right away assume that this is going to be another performance like The Mad Hatter or Willy Wonka or Captain Jack Sparrow. Why? Dr. Seuss was not one of his own characters. He was a guy who lived from one end of the 20th Century to the other, working in advertising, publishing political cartoons and propaganda work during WWII, and finally helping to redefine children's literature with his classic works that are still read around the world.
Earlier this week, talking about the casting of Werner Herzog as the bad guy in the first Reacher film, "One Shot," I mentioned how nervous I am about that film.
There is one other film in development that makes me more nervous, though, and it's because someone's adapting one of my very favorite things, and I'm still not sold on the creative team that's attached. I want to believe, though. The last thing I want is to be negative about a new "Thin Man" movie.
In general, "The Thin Man" is important to me. I love Dashiell Hammett's novel. I love the film series starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. But more than anything, I just plain love Nick and Nora Charles. They may be my favorite fictional married couple of all time. There's just something delicious about their chemistry, and part of it is the way Nora seems to indulge and support all of Nick's worst habits. There is an understanding and an acceptance that is part of their relationship that I love dearly, and it's always been the thing I've sought in my own relationships. I don't think all of the "Thin Man" movies are as good as that first one, but their chemistry stayed crisp and compelling in every scene in every movie they made together.