The Hot Blog Archive for October, 2010

Kickstater Delivers For An Indie

So, a project called Blue Like Jazz went after $125,000 and has pledges of $345,992 via Kickstarter, averaging $77 a pledge.

Are we witnessing history?

his-to-ry from Save Blue Like Jazz on Vimeo.

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127 Hours, actor James Franco

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DP/30 Sneak Peek: Winter’s Bone actor Jennifer Lawrence

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MGM, Spyglass & Lionsgate: A Classic Romantic Triangle

The Lioness has two suitors.

One has cash and relationships all over town with the most powerful players, but doesn’t really want a marriage. He is willing to be completely faithful… for a time… and both parties hope that they can fly high enough that if the romance ever ends, both will leave with more than they brought to the relationship.

The other is so anxious marry that he is willing to be less than financially equal to the Lioness. He’s financially stable, but has never really made the big bucks, as compared to the other guy. He’s already set up the structure of his life, so he doesn’t have to do much to add her to his life… two can live almost as cheaply as one. While most people seem to be focused on The Movies, he is whispering in her ear that the real potential is in Television… another embrace of stability over high-flying excitement.

But there is a interesting game being played by a quieter suitor of sorts. If Carl Icahn built his stake in MGM to 33%, as has been reported as his intention, and he maintains 30% or so of Lionsgate, he would end up with around 1/3 ownership of the new merged business with no other stockholder coming close to his level of ownership. It appears, based on the details released by Lionsgate this week, the indie studio’s leadership, ever at odds with Icahn, have agreed to cap production lower than recent efforts have indicated, which is one major thing that Icahn has been agitating over. Even if it’s not official, this deal happening would give Icahn more power in the combined company and allow LGF management a graceful way out the war they are currently having with him.

Lionsgate restraint would clearly be necessary to chase the dream if growing pre-tax cash flow to $731 million in 2016. That’s quite a projection… one for which I haven’t seen the details. How realistic? Sounds like a big bet. But who knows? Still, one chunk of the projection is not unique to Lionsgate… and that’s whatever they are projecting as revenues from Hobbit and Bond.

The Spyglass deal is pretty simple. The Lionsgate deal has hundreds of potential complications. Either way is a gamble of sorts. I see it as a philosophical choice. Lionsgate is more based on the dynamics of the MGM library and heritage and a lot of little pieces that MGM Creditors would, in reality, just have to trust Lionsgate to do right. Spyglass is more about bigger choices about movies and letting the machinery of Hollywood studios, as partners, do work for MGM/Spyglass that Lionsgate has never been able to achieve as an indie distributor. You could argue that Lionsgate offers the best of both worlds. You could argue that Spyglass’ track record is better, aiming higher, and that we really don’t know what MGM’s library will be in another 3 or 4 years. You could argue that the Netflix deal with Epix, which Lionsgate is party to, is a limitation… or you could argue that it’s the highest paying pay-TV deal in the market today and therefore cannot be replicated to Spyglass’ benefit… or you could argue that Netflix, as it did with Relativity, will do a similarly valuable deal with Spyglass/MGM. You could argue that a big franchise movie, like Bond, immediately raised Lionsgate to Major status… or that Sony or another current major could doa better job releasing the franchise’s next films… or you could argue that Lionsgate will have an incremental growth path that won’t handicap existing franchises, but will make growing new ones harder.

I can argue sides all day.

Either way, it’s going to be interesting.

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BYOB 10/25/10

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Carlos, director Olivier Assayas, actor Edgar Martinez

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DP/30 Sneak Peek: Unstoppable director Tony Scott… On True Romance

We were talking about his new film, the crowd-pleasing pure action piece with Denzel, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson as The Humans (as the train and Scott’s virtuosity are the real stars),Unstoppable. But along the way, we also chatted about some of this other films, including True Romance. Here’s that clip in anticipation of the rest of the chat, which will post later this week.

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Weekend Estimates by Paramountal Jackass Activity Klady

Well, the $3m Paranormal Activity 2 was as front-loaded as front-loaded gets. So it wasn’t a $50m launch… but $40 million-plus doesn’t come anywhere close to sucking.

After that, it’s a parade of strong holds, led by the two family films, Secretariat and Legends of The Guardians. This should probably be a reminder to all studios that although they are all chasing teens, someone is missing a real opportunity to dominate that always-solid market with a new franchise-level picture right now. Instead, we’re waiting 2 more weeks for for Megamind.

The one strong holding film that seems to be a surprise is Life As We Know It. But again, what else is there in the Chick Flick category? Sometimes it just seems like certain niches get awfully thin… and then other times, they are so overloaded, films choke on each other.

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DP/39 Sneak Peek: Casting James Franco In 127 Hours

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Friday Estimates by Klady – Paranormal Jackass 23D

I’m not really sure how to explain this, but Paramount, with Paranormal Activity 2 and Jackass 3D make this the fourth October in a row in which one studio has opened two movies in the month of October to over $20m. Last year, it was Sony with This Is It and Zombieland. In 2008, it was Disney with High School Musical and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. 2007, Lionsgate with Saw IV and Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?. Universal was the first to accomplish the feat with Friday Night Lights and Ray in 2004.

Of course, Paramount’s duo crushes all others, with what looks to be the #1 and #2 October openings of all time by the time this weekend is over. How? Well, besides delivering movies that teens and college kids really, really wanted to see, they fearlessly threw sequels into October… something that rarely happens and represent six of the top ten openings ever in October. Of course, the Saw franchise occupies spots 8, 10, 11, and 12 going into this weekend. But if you bring a film to market that has a big following and minimal commercial competition, you are that much more likely to win.

The Paranormal story is pretty remarkable, as they took a tiny movie and spun a tale around it, a la Blair Witch, that got people more excited than the movie could. But then, when they went to see it, it seems, people really enjoyed the movie. Cut to a year later… the tv advertising shows people being dragged around the house and threatens to be even more aggressive than the first. Home run. This one is, in this way, a little like the Saw franchise… only bigger. More than some of the “quality films” of this time of year, Paranormal reminds us that a true original can work, given the care and attention they need to build audience interest. And once you have a base, you can fly with the sequel.

And Jackass 3D is already, as of yesterday, the biggest grosser in the franchise’s history.

Red, with a pretty good opening Friday to second Friday drop, is now a lock to become Summit’s #2 ever non-Twilight film, sure to pass Letters To Juliet‘s $53m domestic. And it would be a real achievement if it can take down Knowing, the current #1, though $80m seems a loooong way away, especially with just one more week before the November movies start rolling in. The 60s seem a more likely landing place.

Don’t undervalue Eastwood’s Hereafter opening. It looks to be in the Top 5 or 6 of his career, taking into account the exclusive and limited launches as well. This is an “audience movie,” not a “critics movie.” It will definitely send some away shrugging, but it will also send a lot of people away thinking hard, which could stretch its legs out. This will also be an interesting picture to watch overseas, where the three-nation element could have a big payoff.

Odd to see charters #5 – #10 all falling 35% or less… partying like it’s 1999.

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The Hangover 2 Question

What struck me about Mel Gibson being replaced by Liam Neeson in The Hangoverer is not whether Zach G forced the issue or whether no one bitched when convicted rapist Mike Tyson (though I still feel he was railroaded in Indiana… which doesn’t make him an innocent man)… it’s whether Liam Neeson can fulfill the role.

Liam Neeson is the kind of guy you would hire as a safe choice in a sequel that the studio cares about a great deal and wants to be careful with. Going with the idea that Todd Phillips & Co were trying to find another fallen celebrity who gives an unexpected turn, Gibson make perfect sense. Neeson has not fallen and will be, simply, acting. Having a big celebrity in sn over-the-top role is the kind of studio cheese the first film – filled with pretty-much-unknowns – that the first film avoided… no offense to Neeson. This isn’t Neil Patrick Harris in Harold & Kumar… it’s Christopher Meloni in H&K. I loved Meloni in that film… but he is not memorable in the same way NPH is.

Why not Jan Michael Vincent or Tom Sizemore or Gary Oldman or even Val Kilmer?

Vote for as many answers as you agree with…

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The King’s Speech, actor Geoffrey Rush

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BYOB – TGIF102210

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Beauty & The Hathaway

I’m watching the new Blu-ray of Beauty & The Beast – more on that later – but I found it really striking how much Belle looks like Anne Hathaway, who was 9 when the film first came out.

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Hereafter, actor Cecile de France

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The Hot Blog

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin