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December 25, 2008 at 3:25 am 3 comments

Disney boots ‘Narnia’

logo229After just two installments — “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” and “Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” — Disney pictures has decided to part ways with their attempt at a blockbuster franchise based on a series of childrens’ novels. The news leaves the third movie, entitled “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,”which was in preproduction and planning on shooting this spring for a May 2010 release, without a distributor and financial backer.

This from The Hollywood Reporter:

While declining to elaborate, Disney and Walden Media confirmed Tuesday that for budgetary and logistical reasons the Burbank-based studio is not exercising its option to co-produce and co-finance the next “Narnia” movie with Walden. …

Walden has a strong relationship with the Lewis estate and will shop “Treader” in hopes of finding a new partner. The most likely candidate at this stage is Fox, which markets and distributes Walden fare under the Fox Walden banner.

Any partnership on a “Narnia” movie will require a substantial investment. “Caspian,” which filmed in the Czech Republic, Mexico and New Zealand, cost $200 million. The first film, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” was shot mostly in New Zealand for $180 million.

"Fuck Disney."

"Rawr, lolz."

Yes, the movies were really expensive to make (the last one cost Disney about $200 million — and that’s a lot of freakin’ money), but they’re at least turning a profit. Disney †execs seemed to have been scared off by “Prince Caspian’s” $419 million worldwide pull — a full $219 million above its production cost.

This honestly baffles me. I wish I could come up with a better reason for why this is happening, but the only thin I can think of is that, because the second movie made less that the first domestically, that the third in the trilogy would continue that trend.

But you know what would buck thatt?

Make a good movie. Period. I feel like Warner Brothers proved, with “The Dark Knight,” that, if you make a good movie, no matter what the subject matter, you’re going to be able to turn a profit, if you have the financial and advertising background of a huge movie studio — say, one as big as… oh, I don’t know… DISNEY.

This i chicken — a ploy to get out while they still can — even though Disney hasn’t even tried to make it better. With the third movie, if they wanted to, Disney could make “Dawn Treader” a truly great movie, one that could compete with the monster in the room that is the “Harry Potter” franchise. But no, instead, they drop the franchise like a hot potato with no life to breath while it tries to find a voice and a place in cinematic history.

Screw that. I’ll be honest with you, loyal Movie Chutzpah readers, I have never — nor do I ever have the intention of — seeing these movies. I have no interest in it. But it legitimately pisses me of taht Disney would lose faith in the “Narnia” franchise even though it has proved, after two movies, that is a bankable series. WTF, mate?

Have faith in the movies you produce, Disney. It might pay off, someday. Who knows?

December 25, 2008 at 3:14 am 2 comments

Huh, so there are people out there who won’t see ‘The Dark Knight’

logo227….it just turns out that it’s no fault of their own.

Warner Brothers, the distribution company behind “The Dark Knight,” has reportedly decided to pull the film from release in China, according to an article on Variety.

“Based on a number of pre-release conditions that are being attached to ‘The Dark Knight’ as well as cultural sensitivities to some elements of the film, we have opted to forego a theatrical release of the film in China,” Warner said.

A studio spokesam declined to elaborate. “The Dark Knight” included scenes shot in Hong Kong, which could have created difficulties in convincing censors to approve the release.

The Chinese market has been growing impressively in years due to increased numbers of multiplexes and an expanding middle class. But sensitivities remain high about Hollywood’s treatment of its culture.

When I first heard of the news, I couldn’t figure out what in “The Dark Knight” would be so offensive to the Chinese, but now it makes perfect sense — Hong Kong is not painted so positively in the movie. I’m going to continue writing, and if you haven’t seen the film, I’d advise you stop, because there will be some spoilers.

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If you remember, the Chinese banker flees back across the Pacific Ocean, knowing that, no matter what his crime, the Chinese government would never surrender one of their own back to the United States for prosecution. That’s when Batman flies overseas to kick some International Ass, eventually securing the banker, smuggling him back into the United States and getting him in jail where he belongs.

With a government as apt to censor media as the Chinese have proved to be — everything from cutting “The Mummy 3” to lording over copy from journalists at the Beijing Olympics — it’s no surprise that they would be wary about a film that — even so subtly — spoke out about how they choose to run their government.

I have no doubt that “The Dark Knight” would have made some serious bank in China — it’s made ridiculous amounts of money wherever it is shown, including overseas. On top of its domestic $530 million-plus, the sequel to Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” has raked in more than $465 million in foreign box office. Whew, that’s a shit-ton of money. So, I’d be willing to bet that Warner Brothers fought long and hard to get this movie in Chinese theaters, especially considering the ever-growing movie market there.

I don’t really know what  to think of this. It is what it is, and no matter how much I — or anyone — spouts off against it, the Chinese government will continue to censor films. I just feel bad for the citizens of China, because, this time, they’re missing out on a really, really good movie.

December 23, 2008 at 6:15 pm 2 comments

3-D zombies? I’m in.

logo224For those of you who are loyal Movie Chutzpah readers — at this point, I’m night_of_the_living_dead_1pretty sure there’s only one of you :] — you already know my affinity for zombie movies, especially anything and everything by George A. Romero. Yes, that includes “Diary of the Dead”; it’s got its faults, but it’s still pretty badass.

Anyways, Romero’s first foray into the zombie epidemic, the black-and-white classic “Night of the Living Dead,” is being updated — it’s already been colorized in a previous update — to include 3-D. As if zombies weren’t scary enough, now they’ll be reaching out a the screen at you, your brains and your popcorn buckets. Ahh! This, according to an interview that MarketSaw conducted with Greg Passmore, who masters in converting 2-D movies to 3-D. Here’s part of the interview:

MarketSaw: Hi Greg – wow! NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is one of my all time favorites! How did you come to the decision to convert NOLD to 3D?
GP:
I really love the film Jim. When I started talking about it around the office, much to my surprise, I found lots of other people here who also love the film. It just seemed like a natural. Legend has, by far, the best copy and colorization of the film. I pestered Legend for months to get them to agree to let us do it.

MarketSaw: What sort of distribution have you come up with for the movie?
GP: Originally it was slated for VOD and 3D DVD. We have found some strong interest in European distribution and maybe even limited theatrical in the US. Ultimately however, the film is destined primarily for home entertainment

Now, I’ve already come out once before against making classic movies 3-D — when I found out George Lucas was planning on making the original “Star Wars” trilogy 3-D I nearly lost it — but this, to me, feels different. I think, based on Lucas’s history with inexplicably altering his films, we can all agree that the short-stuff responsible for one of the greatest trilogies in American cinema history is hooked on banking on his past work. The useless updates to the old trilogy, the trainwreck that is the second trilogy, the bastardization of “Indiana Jones” — Lucas has made a lot of money by recycling his old, incredibly popular, work.

There are two distinct differences between all of the Lucas bullshit and rebooting “Living Dead” with 3-D

One — There’s no doubt that “Star Wars” 3-D would make a lot of money. It would be released wide to sold-out theaters and, even though I’m sure many trilogy loyalists would complain, they would all go see it. On the other hand, “Living Dead” 3-D clearly isn’t about making tons and tons of money. If — by some chance the project actually is released in theaters in the U.S., which doesn’t sound likely — it’s going to be a very limited release, with most sales coming from DVD and, probably, Blu-Ray. Therefore…

Two — “Living Dead” 3-D is about the fans. “Star Wars” 3-D clearly isn’t. Romero’s zombie fans, while they’re grossly outnumbered by “Star Wars” fans, are probably some of the most loyal enthusiast of any movie franchise. They deserve a shout-out every once in a while, you know, something like SUPER AWESOME 3-D ZOMBIES! Yeah, the project may not make a lot of money for anyone involved, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about pleasing one of the the most loyal and lost-standing (I mean, this franchise started in the 60s and is still going strong) fanbases in the realm of movies with a new idea (3-D zombies) that is a tip-of-the-cap of sorts to their standing by Romero these last four decades.

3-D zombies? Hell yes!

December 23, 2008 at 3:31 am 1 comment

Commentary: Lay off ‘The Dark Knight’ sequel rumors

logo223I’d like to take a step back and look the flurry of ridiculousness that have followed this summer’s — and possibly this decade’s — biggest blockbuster hit, “The Dark Knight.” There has been a roller coaster of excitement following these rumors, from the explosion of happiness when the “news” broke that Johnny Depp and Phillip Seymour Hoffman had signed on to play the Riddler and Penguin, respectively, to the lull in news to ensued — then to even more ridiculous rumors, like Angelina Jolie playing Catwoman to Michael Caan being replaced as Albert.

Now, I’m sure you’ve all heard about the last — and most overtly absurd batch — Eddie Murphy as the Riddler and Shia LeBouf as — ahem — Robin. Now, I have one simple plea to all of you who have, over the course of the last few months, freaked out about each successive “leaked” rumor — all of which I can guarantee you was simply made up:

STOP IT.

Eddie Murphy is not playing The Riddler. He’s just not. There is no place snn1803gx1-280_684409afor a goofy Riddler in The Nolan-verse. If the Riddler is in the next Nolan Batman movie — which everyone is just assuming, but the writers have said they may go into the well and find some villains that have yet to see the screen in any Batman adaptation — he’d need to be real; he’d need to be gritty and creepy. Nolan took an age-old Batman villain and turned him into a realistic terrorist in “The Dark Knight.” Expect him to do the same with The Riddler, is indeed he comes into the picture.

And for the second name that popped up in this crop of rumors, LeBouf, I actually chuckled when I heard this. Really? Really? Please, if you actually believed this rumor, let me know in the comments section. I’d like to know if there is anyone out here that really bought this steaming pile of lie. First off, both Nolan and the Caped Crusader himself, Christian Bale, have spoked out against the introduction of Robin to this trilogy. Bale actually said he wouldn’t come back until Robin was dumped from the script if, by some horrible turn of events, the Boy Wonder was actually and wrongfully written into the story.

These rumors aren’t true. And they’re not even believable anymore. At least with Hoffman and Depp — even Jolie — you could picture them actually playing these characters in the Nolan-verse. So, even though those rumors didn’t have a shred of evidence, you could at least get some enjoyment out of them, dreaming about how sweet a movie that would make.

Murphy? LeBouf? Fuck that.

I, for one, am sick of these rumors. I don’t want to hear them anymore. 77Nolan isn’t signed on for another movie, and, in fact, he hasn’t even come up with a legitimate storyline yet. They’re not going to sign Murphy to play the Riddle if they’re not even sure the Riddler will be in the movie. I believe these unsubstantiated and increasingly sensational rumors are a ploy — the last one was broken by London’s Sun, which is historically less than credible — to grabs readers and internet hits. That’s it. The most popular movie in a long time — “The Dark Knight” — means people are interested. Fake stories about potential sequels are going to get people to your website.

That’s it.

And if we keep eating up stories like Murphy as the Riddler, more and more of these ridiculous stories are going to hit the web. And each time people will freak out. And each time, we’ll all look like fools for buying it.

Let’s just not give them what they want. Ignore them. Don’t react when you hear that Rosie O’Donnell is pegged to play Poison Ivy or Michael Cera has been cast as Mr. Freeze (I feel like an idiot for saying this, but I just made these up — they’re not real rumors, just sarcastic choices to make my point. I just want to make sure I’m not responsible for the next round of madness). Don’t give them the satisfaction of listening to their childish plans to grab as many readers as possible.

I want news on the — hopefully upcoming — Dark Knight sequel as much as you do; believe me. But I want real news. I, for one, am going to ignore anything about the sequel until Christopher Nolan speaks out about it himself, and I encourage all of you to do the same thing. I wouldn’t expect any solid news for at least six months.

That way, we all can stop getting so upset about Eddie Murphy as The Riddler.

December 23, 2008 at 12:02 am 3 comments

Top Six: Most anticipated movies of 2009

logo222I’m home from school, and, while I can’t do my Top Six movies of 2008 because I have yet to see “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and feel like I’ll really enjoy that flick, I need something to do. That’s pretty much why this blog has been started back up, even after such a long hiatus.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep Movie Chutzpah up through next semester, but you never know. But, let’s all just enjoy it while it lasts.

Let’s be honest; 2008 was an incredible year for movies. “The Dark Knight,” “WALL-E,” you name it — there were some amazing movies that hit theaters this year, and I think it showed at the box office. Even with the industry worried about home theaters, netflix and pirating movies taking away from the in-theater sales, “The Dark Knight” made an insane amount of cash, and even smaller flicks like “Mama Mia” did quite well in their runs. So will the studios be able to keep it up with their 2009 lineups?

We’ll see. The lasting effects of the writers’ strike might put a damper on things — especially in the comic book movie genre, which could lose a lot of the steam it picked up with “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man.” But even so, there’s plenty to be excited about, I promise. Without further ado, here are the six movies I can’t wait to see next year.

6. “Terminator Salvation,” May 22, 2009

title-for-terminator-4-gets-terminated“1984” is my favorite book, “Brazil” is one of my favorite movies and so-on — I love dystopian literature. I always have and a I probably always is. There’s just something very intriguing to me about the different ways government and society could go to absolute shit. And, with the entire human race being beaten in a war versus man-like machines, it doesn’t get any more dystopian and depressing than the Terminator series. I know that, no matter how many of these films McG decides to pop out (he apparently already has plans for a fifth installment after “Salvation”), nothing will ever top “Terminator 2,” but I still enjoyed the third one. “Salvation,” even though Arnold isn’t going to be in it, is exactly what Terminator fans have wanted since the beginning; we’ve heard about the Great War between man and machine for three movies. Now we get to see it. I’m really excited that Christian Bale is playing John Connor, too — I think he’s going to be a really good addition to the franchise. Check out the trailer here:

5. “Monsters vs. Aliens,” March 27, 2009

monster_vs_alienI have yet to see a Disney 3-D movie, but I’ve heard very good things about it — like, the innovations that have been made in this new generation of 3-D movies are good enough to remove the kitsch label from the technology. This will most likely be the first one I see, because it looks amazing. Action, humor and crazy character designs — I really think this has the potential to be one of, if not the, best non-Pixar CGI-based film yet. It looks as if it has a tiny bite of satire, and it definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously, blatantly making fun of the classic genres its borrowing from. I love, love, love b-level 1950s sci-fi movie like “Attack of the 50 foot Woman,” “The Blob” and especially “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” so I’m assuming that a lil’ throwback-parody action in “Monsters vs. Aliens” (it looks as though the 5o-foot woman actually makes an appearance in the flick) will be fantastic. This is going to be a good one.

4. “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” Nov. 6, 2009

9220__wes_lSome people love him; some people think he’s a no-talent assclown who hides under the “indie” label to slip crappy movies into American pop-culture. Wes Anderson is a very polarizing director, and I happen to be in the former category. I adore all of his movies, and “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” which is reportedly using the stop-motion animation that Anderson tinkered with in “Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” is definitely one of the most intriguing endeavors of 2009. Although the settings of his movies are drastically different, I think the core of every one has been the same — dealing with disappointment, family issues and general disfunction. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see Anderson try to work out of his element with this project. “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” is based on a classic childrens’ novel by Roald Dahl and will a great lineup of voice actors, including George Clooney, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jason Schwartzman and Anjelica Huston. Here’s a clip from “The Life Aquatic” that showcases the stop-motion animation that could be used in “Mr. Fox,” too:

3. “Inglourious Basterds,” June 2009

tarantino-sipaFirst of all, let me say something: I know both “Inglorious” and “Bastards” are spelled wrong in the title — but that’s the way director Quention Tarantino wants it. And at this point, I’m ready to let him do whatever he wants, just as long as this movie finally gets finished. He’s been talking about this project, I believe, since the early 1990s after the completion of “Reservoir Dogs.” No after all the speculation, hype and rumor, we finally know that it’s finally going to get made — with a killer cast that includes Brad Pitt, B.J. Novak (from “The Office”) and Samuel L. Jackson. From what I’ve heard about this flick, including script reviews and such, this could be Tarantino’s coupe de grace, his masterpiece. And that’s with”Pulp Fiction” — one of the best movies of all time — hanging over this project’s head. Maybe I’m getting a little carried away on the hype train, but, I think it’s safe to say that, if there’s this much buzz around a movie this earlier, it’s going to be pretty darn impressive. Here’s a fan-made video of the shooting set of the flick:

2. “Watchmen,” March 6, 2009

watchmenMy first experience with the graphic novel “Watchmen” came as soon as I could find the book after I saw the mysterious trailer linked to “The Dark Knight.” I don’t like comic books, but this was different, and it completely blew me away. Reviews — even ones from cynical comic book fans who have seen bits and pieces of the film — are crazy-good already, headed by a glowing review by indie-film guru and mega-nerd Kevin Smith. Zack Snyder’s movie is one of the only big-name comic book adaptations that will hit theaters next year, but it’s a good one. If done right, and from all accounts it has been, Snyder continue setting the bar higher for comic book movies, a trend that started with “Spider-Man” and has continued through “The Dark Knight.” I don’t want to get my hopes up too high, but I really can’t wait until I can see this — in the IMAX Experience, of course.

1. “Where the Wild Things Are,” Oct. 16, 2009

where_the_wild_things_areflvThis movie just has to freakin’ come out already! Shoots and edits and reshoots and re-edits and test audiences and so on — this movie has gone through a lot, even the release date being pushed back over a year. It seems as though everything is on the right track now, with — apparently and hopefully — the majority of Spike Jonze’s original, darker view in tact. The studio has backed him 100 percent, even after children were scared and adults calling the lead character, Max, “unlikeable” in test screenings. I, for one, desperately want to see Jonze’s version hit the screens; his work on movies like “Adaptation” and “Being John Malkovich” is simply amazing, and bringing that gritty, realistic style to one of the most surreal and famous childrens’ novels of all time … well, I’m just just excited to see it. The video posted below is very, very early test footage — the sound isn’t synced and the kid isn’t actually Max Powers, who will be playing Max — but the angles, lighting, cinematography and general feel of the movie is exactly what I expect. October 16th cannot come soon enough:

December 22, 2008 at 10:08 pm 2 comments

You can be in Judd Apatow’s ‘Funny People’

logo221So, for those of you who don’t know, Judd Apatow — the creative producing genius behind hits like “40 Year Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” and “Superbad” — is working on a semi-autobiographical story called “Funny People” about a struggling stand-up comic who’s trying to make it big. The cast includes most of the funniest people in Hollywood (most of who started as stand-up comedians), like Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Jason Schwartzman, Jonah Hill, Sarah Silverman and Andy Dick.

I’m really excited about this project, because the best movies in the Apatow apatow2Catalog are the ones that are personally special to someone involved in the project. For instance, Seth Rogen and his writing partner had been penning and repenning “Superbad” since high school, and the film was really important to them. On the other hand, “Drillbit Taylor” was more of just an excuse to make a movie — and it showed… that movie was pretty horrible.

All-in-all, because “Funny People” is more-or-less about Apatow’s life as a comedian, he’ll care deeply that it’s done right. Plus, with a great cast that will most likely be able to ad-lib as much as they want, I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Well, fans of Apatow — presumably those who live around Los Angeles unless you’re a really big Apatow fan — have a chance to see the first glimpses of “Funny People.” Live.

Entitled “A Night of Funny People,” the show, which is on Jan. 13 at Los Angeles’s Orpheum Theater, will be shot, with the footage being used in the movie. Tickets are just $17 — a steal for the lineup that you’ll get to see, if you ask me.

Judd Apatow hosts, performing live as their characters in the film are: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Aziz Ansari, as well as Patton Oswalt and other surprise special guests in the line-up.

Even though Rogen doesn’t have a background in stand-up, I’d be willing to bet that he’ll be pretty funny up there, as will Sandler. Of course, the stand-up won’t exactly give you an exact feel for what the movie will be like — it’s not like you’re getting to see any of the storyline or anything like that — you’ll get, since Sandler and Co. are appearing in character,  the chance to meet the characters and see, presumably, how they interact with one another. I’d be really interested to see how Sandler’s character’s stand-up compares to his own, and if it’s completely 100-percent new material or if he borrows from his old shows.

Personally, I think this kind of live-action audience test is a great idea. Most studios test movies after they’re already shot and edited, but if this night goes off without a hitch, Apatow will know that he’s on at least the right track before he eve gets going on shooting and stuff. Obviously, since this movie is about stand-up comedy and the footage can be used right in the actual movie, it can easily utilize a night like this, where other movies wouldn’t really have the chance. But nonetheless, I think more films should try to find ways to incorporate this type of audience participation.

If, by chance, any would who reads this actually goes to the show and would be willing to write a review about the show, I’d love to run it. Just let me know in the comments section.

“Funny People” is slated for a July 31, 2009 release date.

December 22, 2008 at 6:20 pm 2 comments

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