Posts Tagged ‘The Rockford Files’
This week: Updates on Dean Haglund’s forthcoming performances at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, on his graphic novel (sounds like there’s been progress), on a play he has been writing for decades (!) and on the book he recently had published!
This week: Phil offers a “mea culpa” to the makers of the new episodic “Star Trek”, he marvels at some of the great on-screen friendships, he ruminates on the differences between filmmakers, artists and geniuses, he champions (once again), the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, he asks Dean about bitcoins, he weighs in on a “Live Event of the Week” and he and Dean remember three individuals in “Celebrity Deaths”.
Every week: Your friends in podcasting change the way you listen to the internet!
The Summer Movie Season AND
All the Development News News That’s Fit to Print!
On Friday 4 May, the “summer” movie season commenced with the eagerly anticipated The Avengers, a box office juggernaut (and according to reviews, a comic book movie masterpiece). The first Friday of May has become all-important for the film business. For two decades, Memorial Day was considered the start of the summer movie season. Never mind that actual summer does not begin until the fourth week of June and that it ends the fourth week of September, in the movie biz, the summer blockbuster season traditionally commenced the Wednesday before the Memorial Day Weekend (thank you, George Lucas) and concluded before Labor Day weekend (thank you … Jerry Lewis telethon?). All that changed with the release of The Mummy in 1999. That film’s surprising success pushed the start of the summer season to the first Friday in May and for the past several years, Marvel has staked out that day for the likes of Iron Man, Spider-man 3, Iron Man 2, Thor and now, The Avengers.
Even before the release of the Joss Whedon-directed blockbuster, Summer of 2012 certainly looked like it would be a record-setting one box office-wise, with such sure-fire hits as Will Smith’s return to alien policing with Men in Black III, Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien franchise with Prometheus, an action-adventure take on “Snow White” starring Thor and the gal from the Twilight movies, a G.I. Joe sequel with both Bruce Willis and The Rock, a Spider-man reboot, Christopher Nolan’s conclusion to his Dark Knight trilogy, another “Bourne” movie (only without Jason Bourne), and a follow-up to Sylvester Stallone’s testosterone dream team ensemble action movie The Expendables.
Even the more “risky” studio fare seem like relatively safe bets. Sure, the television series on which Dark Shadows is based is not much remembered and those who do remember it might not be fond of the tone of parody the big-screen adaptation takes. Still, it’s a Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp. And it seemed like a good counter-programming idea at the time. After all, who could have guessed that The Avengers would prove to be so funny? That budget of $150 million before marketing costs, however? That kind of math will turn many hits into “disappointments”. Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest vehicle The Dictator is certainly being marketed as the new “risky” comedy, from a comedian who takes “risks”. Yet, when a film is being marketed as “risky”, that’s usually a pretty good indication it was considered a safe bet financially-speaking.
While musicals haven’t exactly come back in force, Rock of Ages sure seems to have momentum going for it. If it is successful, it will be almost impossible to remember that at this point a year ago, people were wondering whether Tom Cruise was “done” as an A-List star. And can it really have been ten years since Catherine Zeta-Jones reached her career peak in Chicago? Meanwhile, talk about comebacks, with Robert Redford’s The Conspirator, Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Lincoln and this summer’s Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Abraham Lincoln seems to be starring in just about everything these days! A case could be made that this sudden interest in the sixteenth President might reflect how the U.S. is currently a house more divided than at any time since the Civil War, though that case won’t be made here as it is probably untrue and is nowhere near as interesting as writing about vampires, so … Honest Abe’s latest vehicle finds him battling the undead in a genre mash-up that has inspired high hopes in the Comic-con crowd. It looks like this year’s Cowboys and Aliens, by which I mean it could be really cool, it could be so bad it’s good, or it could be so bad it’s … Bad. Unlike Cowboys and Aliens, however, The Great Emancipator’s foray into sci-fi, horror and action came in at a reasonable budget of $70 million, so whatever the outcome, it won’t hemorrhage money the way Cowboys and Aliens did.
Genre mashing didn’t work so well the last time out for Ben Stiller with Tower Heist. The caper aspects of that film were competent enough. The comedic aspects were … Wait, were there comedic aspects?
Neighborhood Watch stars Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill as suburban dads who form a neighborhood watch group as a way to get out of their day-to-day family routines and find themselves defending the Earth from an alien invasion. Sci-fi/comedy mash-ups can work quite well (Ghostbusters, anyone?). They can also make you never want to see a movie ever again (Evolution, anyone?). With the heavy-duty comedic talent on board this project both in front of and behind the camera, it’s hard to imagine the film not at least proving profitable, though Fox’s decision to re-title the film simply The Watch so as to avoid confusion with the Trayvon Martin case does indicate a certain paranoia on a distributor’s part. Ordinarily, that kind of paranoia would lead this observer to believe the distributor lacks faith in the product they are selling. When the distribution company in question is owned by Rupert Murdoch, that paranoia might just prove to be … Paranoia. Discuss among yourselves. Only, I’d advise against doing so on the phone. Rupert would likely be listening …
No topic discussed on YOUR Chillpak Hollywood Hour seems to draw such passionate disdain from listeners as the subject of remakes. Marketing companies seem to be aware of this fact and so opt for euphemisms like “re-imaginings”. Filmmakers often go out of their way to point out that they have returned to a property’s source material to re-interpret that material, rather than simply “remaking” a previous film. Definitely in the minority opinion, your friends in podcasting, Dean Haglund and Phil Leirness don’t particularly care about any of these distinctions. Is a film interesting or is it not interesting? Is the approach to making that film interesting or not interesting? Is the marketing of that film interesting or not interesting? Of course, the financial desperation that inspires so many of these remakes IS, charitably, uninteresting. On the other hand, the almost always-superior originals still exist and often are treated to improved re-issues as a result of produced remakes. Plus, many people find out about originals they never would have encountered were it not for the remakes, so …
Where were we?
Oh, yes. Total Recall. Len Wiseman’s remake of Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 cinematic adaption of Phillip K. Dick’s We Can Remember it For You Wholesale boasts an awfully impressive cast – Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, Ethan Hawke, John Cho – it’s quite possible that given an interesting approach to the original source material, this “Recall” could be superior to its forebear. The odds of it being as much fun as the Schwarzenegger-starring original are slim at best, however. In fact, Wiseman’s “Recall” had better be superior in quality to the original because if it’s bad there’s no way it will be nearly as enjoyable as Verhoeven’s was when IT was bad! Plus, as “safe” a business as remakes generally are, spending $200 million on a film starring Colin Farrell (whose name can be translated as meaning “no U.S. box office”) strikes us as career suicide for whichever bean counters pressed the green light on this one! In that regard, perhaps Total Recall will prove to be this summer’s Cowboys and Aliens, the answer to the question, “What American film spent $200 million to generate $100 million at the box office?”
Still, Summer of 2012 looks to have at least eight blockbusters, and possibly more than a dozen. Coupled with the record-setting start to the year, in which The Hunger Games was the biggest hit but was itself preceded by an unprecedented string of strong performers, it might be tempting to believe that the film business is breathing a collective sigh of relief. After all, it was just last year that the sky was falling, when from August until the end of December the North American box office suffered a drought the likes of which it had never known. If there is a sigh of relief in any quarters, it seems premature, and would belie the behavior on the part of studios AND stars.
Fewer films are being made by studios, which means fewer opportunities for big paydays for stars. Fewer independent films are getting theatrical releases, which means lower paydays for the actors who star in those. One look at the current films in development that have generated show biz headlines over the past few months and it’s clear that no matter how successful 2012 might prove to be at the box office, studios and stars are more desperate than ever to create sure-fire properties.
How else to explain the reboot of The Rockford Files as a big-screen vehicle for Vince Vaughn or that Disney is adapting the old Night Stalker series (itself the inspiration for Chris Carter’s The X-Files) as a vehicle for Johnny Depp? Shouldn’t Disney be concerned that making that film might cause Depp to be unavailable to play the titular role in their latest effort at turning a theme park ride into a movie, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride? When it comes to adaptations, however, no project currently in development more represents an industry eating its own like the forthcoming Friday Night Lights film, based, of course, on the television series, which was based, of course, on a feature film!
Of course, many of the titles in the news are remakes/reboots/re-imaginings … There’s a musical remake of Dirty Dancing, a remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror film Suspiria, a reboot of The Mummy franchise (which will no doubt attempt to push up the start of the summer movie season even earlier), and a re-imagining of A Star is Born being directed by Clint Eastwood.
Those fail to excite you? Perhaps your tastes run more to sequels.
Not surprisingly there will be a sequel to this year’s Woman in Black, which brought back the legendary Hammer label and which proved to be the UK’s most successful horror export in decades. Never mind that the star of the first installment can’t return (spoiler alert!). Somewhat surprisingly the team that brought us the cult favorite Anchorman, which no one outside the U.S. saw, is currently at work on Anchorman 2.
Fans of Die Hard will be “treated” to not only another sequel, but to several remakes as well. And by “remakes”, we mean rip-offs, and by “rip-offs” we mean re-imaginings of the premise like Speeding Bullet, White House Down and an air thriller, Non-Stop, starring Liam Neeson.
Happy Madison, Adam Sandler’s production shingle, is getting into both the sequel and remake games with Grown Ups 2 and a re-do of the 1987 Mark Harmon vehicle Summer School.
And speaking of the 1980′s, every single film from that decade has a sequel in development.
Midnight Run 2 is being directed by Brett Ratner and Robert DeNiro returns to his role as a bounty hunter, though his co-star from the original, the incomparable Charles Grodin is unlikely to return as he turns down jobs that prevent him from sleeping in his own bed at night …
Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito will be returning to Twins, this time with Eddie Murphy in Triplets …
Beetlejuice 2 is starting to pick up development steam …
Top Gun 2 is currently being written and both Tom Cruise and original Top Gun director Tony Scott are on board …
To each of these, we can only exclaim, “At last! The wait is over!”
Seriously, the only common-sense question that comes to mind when mulling over these pending sequels that range from the unnecessary to the unfortunate is “What would Whitney want?” And, of course, we have our answer, courtesy of Fox 2000′s president, Elizabeth Gabler, who defended her company’s decision to move ahead with a sequel to Waiting to Exhale, even though that film’s popular star is now dead, by saying, “It’s almost in her honor that we think to soldier on.”
Of course, there’s bound to be a big-screen biopic based on the life of The Bodyguard star, and if so, she won’t be alone. For even when filmmakers in the current economic climate decide to tackle something original, what they are often tackling are show business stories. For example, we have Darren Aaronofsky’s Judy Garland biopic starring Anne Hathaway to which we can look forward.
Even more interesting to audiences than a biopic of a show business icon is the “real” story behind the making of a legendary film! That is why Scarlett Johannson will be playing Janet Leigh in a film about the making of Psycho. Anthony Hopkins stars as Hitchcock, who almost didn’t get to make the original because back then, no one would finance a “lowly” horror film. Now, if you want to get a film made and it ISN’T a horror film, it really helps if your project is ABOUT the making of a horror film!
We’re fairly certain that the upcoming film about how Walt Disney spent 14 years convincing author P.L. Travers to allow him to turn Mary Poppins into a movie won’t be in the horror genre, especially considering the fact that the project stars Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. On the other hand, if Disney’s head really has been preserved in a freezer, then maybe we can hope for a Stuart Gordon Re-Animator-esque third act. And come to think of it, so many of the ideas for these projects seem to be coming from a frozen head that one can only wonder how long we will have to wait until the horror story behind the green-lighting of all these projects thrills us on the big screen.
Certainly, a few of the aforementioned projects might prove to be good, but the calculated nature of them all just seems so … Well … Desperate.
You might be asking yourselves, are there any films currently in production to which your friends in podcasting are actually looking forward?
Well, there is ONE …
The great documentary filmmaker Erroll Morris, who disappointed us with his most recent work, Tabloid, will return to his “wheel-house”, with a follow-up of sorts to his Oscar-winning 2003 doc The Fog of War in which he profiled former Secretary of Defense and Vietnam War architect Robert McNamara. Morris’ new film focuses on two-time Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. Once described as “a ruthless little bastard” by President Nixon, who made Rumsfeld his anti-poverty czar despite the fact that Rumsfeld voted against the very post’s creation as a congressman, Rumsfeld was a champion of transparency who co-sponsored the Freedom of Information Act, ensuring public access to U.S. government records. He was also the Iraqi-war commandant and architect of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that led to the torture of prisoners of war at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Apparently Errol Morris has gotten the two-time Secretary of Defense to sit for a lengthy series of interviews. Morris aims to release his new documentary feature later this year.
That’s one film WE are desperate to see!