Saturday, 30 October 2010

Saturday Silliness Cinema: MONSTER CHILLER HORROR THEATER!!!

Welcome to my spoooooooooky show folks.

It's Saturday, time to take my usual break from ranting about pop culture and the business behind it, to have a laugh, or to be specific A SCARY LAUGH! Wooooooo!

Today, with Halloween coming tomorrow, I present one of the scaaaaaaaariest videos to ever come across the internets. I'm talking about SCTV's Monster Chiller Horror Theater, and it's broadcast of the terrifying fright fest Dr. Tongue's 3D House of Stewardesses, in 3D!!!

Watch it, if you dare! Muah-hah-hah-hah!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #623: File This Story Under "W"

Welcome to the show folks....

Okay, here's the story.

Carl Icahn, a billionaire corporate raider and shareholder rights activist, has been trying to take over Lionsgate Pictures for so long, I can really remember when it started anymore.

The management of Lionsgate, and some key shareholders, don't want Icahn to take over, because that would mean the management would be shown the door.

However Lionsgate's management were coveting the troubled and debt-addled MGM Pictures for a takeover of their own.

Icahn spent the longest time saying "Nay Nay" on the takeover, saying it would cost Lionsgate too much for too little.

Then Icahn had an amazing change of heart.

Suddenly, Icahn stopped opposing the MGM-Lionsgate merger and declared that he was all in favor of it now and would do anything to help, which included repeatedly trying to buy up all the MGM debt he could get his hands on.

Lionsgate Management was all giddy about this change, and for a while it looked like everything was going to be sunshine and unicorns from now one.

Then things changed again.... right back to where they started.

Lionsgate filed suit against Icahn, claiming he was playing a "double game" with his machinations during the merger discussions.


Wow, let me put this in the file under "W" for "Well d'uh!"

Sheesh, I had posited my own theories of what Lionsgate would call a "double game" almost 20 days ago when the change of heart first broke. And they're only just seeing the potential for it this week?

I know I'm a genius of staggering proportions. ("ego" is just another word for "intelligence" isn't it?) but I shouldn't have been the only one that saw something like this coming.

When Icahn had his change of heart, I asked myself: "What does Carl Icahn really want?"

There were three possible answers to this question:

A. Own or control a motion picture company capable of producing and distributing feature films.

B. Make a quick profit from the various high finance machinations surrounding Lionsgate and MGM.

C. All of the above.

Then you have to ask yourself: "How does such a sudden change in attitude and actions get Icahn what he wants?"

Add water, stir, and figure it out for yourself.

I'm not saying that you can't trust anyone when you're doing this level of big business. I'm just saying that you should probably follow the old Cold War dictum of "Trust, but verify" before you make any major moves.

It's called strategy.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Cinemaniacal: Title This Post Please

Welcome to the show folks....

Titles are hard.

Why do you think I categorize my posts with things like Hollywood Babble On & On, Cinemaniacal, or some other inanity because it's because coming with a clever, snappy, title, is hard work. So I distract you with standardized titles and numbers, and some piece of sarcasm to tell you what it's about.

Movie titles are in the news lately, especially the titles for the third Christopher Nolan Batman movie
Dark Knight Rises, and just today Paramount announced the title of their next Tom Cruise spy vehicle, the grammatically enigmatic Mission: Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol.

Really: That's: Paramount's: Title: For: Their: Movie?

Well lets look at the pros and cons of each title.


1. It creates an immediate connection to Nolan's
Dark Knight, which people are still talking about for it's masterful elevation of the superhero movie into the crime epic.


1. It's sparked a lot of naughty and saucy comments all over the internet, including at this very blog. Yes, I admit it, I'm weak.


1. The name and number reminds people that it's yet another installment of the
Mission: Impossible franchise starring Tom Cruise.

Ghost Protocol sounds all mysterious, and possibly high tech.


1. The name and number reminds people that it's yet another installment of the
Mission: Impossible franchise starring Tom Cruise. That franchise has been very uneven, and often disappointing, and subject to the wild ebbs and flows of Mr. Cruise's ego.

Ghost Protocol doesn't exactly trip off the tongue. In fact, it sounds like a rejected title from a rejected script for a James Bond movie. (Which I will get to in a second)

Like I said, coming up with good titles is a hard job. Especially in this day of sequels, franchises, reboots, remakes, and their sequels. The old days of just slapping a number onto a title just isn't enough anymore. No doubt the studio marketing people are justifying their existence by telling their masters that they need something to make each film stand apart that doesn't involve roman numerals.

Interesting enough, the first sequel that I could find to use a number in the title was Quatermass 2, the sequel to the British sci-fi classic The Quatermass Xperiment. The practice didn't catch on in Hollywood until Francis Coppola slapped "Part II" at the end of the title for his sequel to The Godfather.

Nowadays, having just a number screams repetition, no thanks to over-flogged horror sequels like the Saw franchise.

The James Bond franchise predated the number trend coming to Hollywood, but they had the great resource of Ian Fleming, whose skill as a writer was matched only by his knack for catchy, stylish titles. One of his best tricks was to take an old cliche, and tweak it into something like Live & Let Die, or You Only Live Twice.

The movie franchise has continuously dipped into the Ian Fleming title canon, stripping them off the novels, short stories, and even the name of Ian Fleming's house for Goldeneye. The times where they tried to come up with titles of their own, they got Die Another Day & License To Kill, which were more imitation Fleming and without his linguistic playfulness.

I'm sure Fleming would have been happier if all he had to do was slap a number after James Bond's name. It's a lot less work.

This is where I'd like your opinions. What do you think makes a good title?

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #622: Season Of The Snark

Welcome to the show folks...

Bit of a slow time for the "big news" that blows up my kilt and fills it with rage so I'm just going to snark a little for tonight.


Instead Christopher Nolan is going to call it DARK KNIGHT RISING.


The Dark Knight is rising, that can only mean that Catwoman's in town. Rawr.


James Cameron has announced that his next two films will be Avatar 2 and Avatar 3.

He was apparently convinced to do the films after Fox made a fat donation to his environmental charity, which makes the charity able to pay for him to fly his private Airbus 380 around the world to tell people to stop wasting resources.

There is no story for the sequels, but that hasn't stopped him before.

Okay, I tease. He is in fact hard at work at coming up with a story for the sequels. I understand he will go through every movie, and old sci-fi TV show until he finds one.

Maybe he can have his hero find a gateway through time where he falls in love with a Na'Vi woman during a time of poverty on Pandora, a great depression you could call it, only to have to let her die to save the planet.

What do you think?

I smell a hit.

I also smell a fat cash settlement for Harlan Ellison too.

I say go for it!


Charlie Sheen mussed up his hotel room and went into full batshit mode the other day, due to what his publicist says was an "allergic reaction to medication."

Sure, and in five years people
aren't going to look at Taylor Momsen and say: "Damn Courtney Love has really let herself go."

The only people surprised at this sort of news about Sheen are the people who had a different date in the betting pool. It's only a matter of time before he's found leaping off the roof of his mansion screaming: "I am the lizard king! Zardoz commands me to fly!" (My money's on that happening on Wednesday January 2, 2013.)

Please stop blaming it on mythical medications and allergies, and admit that there is definitely a screw loose. Because denial of an obvious problem like that can only lead to trouble. Just ask Disney, who only just now found out that Keith Richards used drugs.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #621: Paramount.... What Did You Just Do?

Welcome to the show folks....

Remember Insurge Pictures?

I wrote about this company in the past, you can crawl through my archives for the full story, but I'll give you a quick recap.

Hot off the success of the micro-budget flick
Paranormal Activity Paramount announced $1 million to make 10 micro-budget films for $100,000 each. Paranormal Activity 2 came out, had a hellacious opening weekend, so many, me included, expected a great future for Insurge.

Then we saw the trailer for the first Insurge release.


Instead of a tightly made micro-budget thriller, or comedy, from a bright new filmmaker we got an over-sized, overpriced cinematic celebration of a hair-style slapped on top of a non-threatening nasal voice that manages to sound more mechanized than Twiki from the old Buck Rogers TV Show.

Back when I first heard about it, I offered some advice to Paramount over this, so let's look and see if they followed my advice, skipping the silly bits.

THE ADVICE: I suggested that they do not call it "Paramount Atomic." My advice was to avoid officially labeling it as yet another subdivision of a massive multi-national conglomerate , and avoid sticking it with the names of Paramount and MTV.

DID THEY TAKE IT? They partially followed that advice, leaving out the name, but slapping the Paramount mountain on top of their logo, and had the names of Paramount and MTV alongside it at the opening of the trailer. This makes it seem more like "sub-Paramount" in the minds of fans than a serious label of its own.

THE ADVICE: I suggested not to look for another Paranormal Activity. This does not mean that they shouldn't have made the sequel. That's a separate kettle of fish. What I suggested was not making every Insurge production a Paranormal Blair Witch imitator with that whole "found footage" schtick. I advised that they should broaden their horizons, look at horror films, sure, but also be open to comedies, crime films, and anything else that could be done for $100,000 or less.

DID THEY TAKE IT? Not yet, judging from their first major release.

THE ADVICE: I suggested avoiding treating it like Paramount Vantage. Paramount Vantage went from being an attempt to cash in on the popularity of indie films to more of a "let's get our friends some Oscars" factory. They need to pursue fresh blood, I suggested going to film-making co-ops and groups and actively look for people who can do a lot with very little.

DID THEY TAKE IT? Not yet, and I doubt they ever will.

Right now I'm beginning to fear that when they came up with this idea at Paramount HQ they said: "Great idea! We'll make a fortune!" and stuff like that, only to find themselves without a single scintilla of a clue about how exactly they were going to do it.

So what do they do?

They slap the name on a flick for tween girls that's already being "co-produced" by two other divisions of the Viacom/Paramount empire, so they can boondoggle up the bookkeeping and keep more of those tween's cash for themselves.

And the sad part of this story is that this is probably the best that Paramount is capable of doing.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #620: What To Do?

Welcome to the show folks....

It's been a while, having taken a bit of a long weekend off from blogging, but I'm back, and as annoying as ever. Let's get this thing started...


French New Wave legend Jean-Luc Godard has officially thanked the Academy for giving him its lifetime achievement award, but has admitted that he won't be attending the event itself.

Good for M. Godard. The maker of such films as
Alphaville is 80 years old and really can't afford to spend pretty much every waking moment from now until about a month after the Oscar ceremony preparing for, enduring, and recovering from attending the Oscars.

It wasn't always that way, the Academy Awards were supposed to be a fun and entertaining get together to salute quality work. Not quite as much fun as the Golden Globes, where they were expected to drink during the show, but still fun nonetheless. Then it started taking itself way too seriously, the films they honor became a genre onto themselves, and the whole thing became one big snore-fest

With so much free time on M. Godard's hands, let's offer him a few suggestions for what he can do now that he's not attending the Oscars.

1. Enjoy some wine and cigarettes, he is French after all.

2. Finally realize his dream of finishing his script for a reboot of the
Porky's franchise.

3. Write some jokes for the upcoming roast of Bernardo Bertolucci at the Friars Club.

4. Dance frantically in his living room to the music of Justin Bieber playing backwards. (Which always come out sounding exactly like a disco remix of
The Internationale)

If you have your own suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments.


Halle Berry wants another one, so she's putting out a movie where she plays a woman with multiple personality disorder for a qualifying run in theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

Halle won a Best Actress award in 2001 for being able to find Billy Bob Thornton attractive in Monster's Ball. Since then she's careened from stinker to stinker, and thinks another Oscar doing a remix of The 3 Faces of Eve, will revive her career.

I'm sure winning an Oscar is wonderful for an actor, it has to be considering the terrible things actors do to get one. However, pursuing a second Oscar can hurt more than help. Remember Marisa Tomei? She won for her comic turn in
My Cousin Vinny, then followed it up with some weepy drama about falling in love with a guy with a baboon heart.

It was supposed to get her a Best Leading Actress Oscar, but instead helped stymie her career for years, forcing her to literally start over again as a working actress, until reclaiming critical and peer acclaim in indie films like
In The Bedroom, The Wrestler, and Before The Devil Knows Your Dead.

As Audrey Hepburn once said: Showbiz is a hideous bitch-goddess that derives joy from your failure, and loves to punish the obvious Oscar whoring.

I wish Miss Berry luck, she's going to need it.


Apparently, the cast of
The Hangover 2 didn't think a cameo by actor/ director/ racial harmony motivational speaker/ telephone raconteur/ liquor connoisseur Mel Gibson was somehow a step down from briefly sharing the screen with convicted rapist Mike Tyson in the first film.

Some will say that this is Hollywood hypocrisy in action, others will say that it's all being overblown, and while others will say it's just what Mel deserves.

Well I think it's a missed opportunity.

When you have a chance to have Mel Gibson come down for a couple of days to shoot a cameo, you do not turn it down. You bring him right on in, and then you BUST HIS BALLS WITHOUT MERCY OR REMORSE.

Really, he has to take it. If he walks, or has a hissy-fit, he knows his career will be even farther up shit creek than it is already. He has to sit there and take it.

Then maybe he might learn something.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #619: More Miscellaneous Musings

Welcome to the show folks....

Time for a few small stories, and sorry, none involve racy pictures of minor celebrities.


Carl Icahn owns a piece of MGM's debt, he also owns a big piece of Lionsgate. He doesn't like the Spyglass plan which would reduce MGM into being just another production company without the power that distribution can get them. Icahn is now offering to buy more of MGM's debt in the hopes that it would smooth over an MGM merger with Lionsgate.

Personally, I don't like either plan. Spyglass' plan would make the once great studio the red-headed stepchild of Hollywood, dependent on the charity of other studios to get their films on screens big and small. Icahn's plan would also basically erase MGM's existence, making it a part of Lionsgate, and saddling the mini-major with MGM's bloated and crippling debt.

I'd like to see a plan that would somehow get it out of debt and maintain it as an independent producer, distributor, and most importantly, a competitor.

But that's just a pipe dream.


MGM and Warner Bros. have apparently settled the kerfuffle with the unions over their co-production of
The Hobbit, but Peter Jackson may still move it out of New Zealand.

I don't know how MGM is going to contribute to this production other than letting Warner Bros. use their rights to the original book, they don't have the money, and decision wise currently don't know whether to shit or go blind.


There was a time when NBC could count on the Tonight Show for half their revenue, and there were time when it literally had to count on the Tonight Show for them to survive. Oh, how things have changed. Late night titans Leno and Letterman are tied in the ratings, but both are down overall.

I can tell you why.

They're old.

Not just chronologically, but in their style. They're both set in their ways and will not change for anything. Leno just recycles his material, lacking the energy and affability that originally made him number one because he takes his audience for granted and assumes that they'll be half asleep anyway, so why burn any calories. Letterman's target audience are basically critics and other people in the media, that's who he plays to, and they love him for that, but mostly because he's not Leno.

I think the age of the late night talk show, at least in the traditional format used by L&L is going the way of the dinosaur.

I'd like to see a talk show having fun. Maybe Conan will do it now that he's free from NBC's shackles of incompetence, but it's all moot to me. I go to bed early because I need my beauty sleep.

I really need my beauty sleep.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #618: Miscellaneous Musings

Welcome to the show folks...

Time for a few shorter bits, with a few short thoughts to go with them.... and maybe some snark where it's deserved.


Tim Adler from Nikki Finke's
Deadline posse wonders why so few British actors have what are called "vanity deals" with studios.

A "vanity deal" is where a movie star and their business partner and/or manager form a production company in order to get producer credits on the films the actor stars in, whether they made any contribution to the production of their films or not.

Some of the prevailing theories are...

1. Most Brit actors aren't interested in such deals, finding them distracting from their acting.

2. Studios don't respect Brit actors and don't even bother to offer such deals to them.

Well, I have my own theory, and it comes from my previously stated theory on British actors.

You see British actors view their work as a profession, not an entitlement. This attitude means that you look for work, and if you can get it, quality work, without embarrassing yourself too badly. British actors who become "producers" tend to become actual producers without the snarky quotes. It's more than just putting a name in the credits for something they didn't do, but for purely professional reasons. They are created to allow themselves more control over their career, and the profits to be derived from that career. But they don't have to slap their shingle on everything they just happen to act in.


A parent's group is upset over a photo-shoot for GQ featuring sexy pics of scantily clad starlets from the show
Glee. Some have even likened it to pedophilia.

Really. There isn't anyone from
Glee in this photo-spread below the age of 21, and everyone knows it. One commenter at another site joked that the faces of the cast have more lines than a David Mamet play.

This whole kerfuffle is triply stupid.

A) The complainers obviously don't know much about show and its cast, nor do they realize that they are being used by Fox and GQ for free publicity.

B) Fox seems to think that this photo-shoot will make straight men watch the show. It won't.

C) This controversy has forced me to post a requisite cheesecake picture of actress Lea Michelle, just to illustrate what all the fuss is about.
I hope you're happy, because you know, I'm not the type to use cheesecake pics on this site to attract readers.
I'm only doing this because you people are forcing me to.



Actor Johnny Depp is very keen on doing an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man.

If you're part of the great illiterate horde, Depp will be playing Nick Charles, a former private eye who retired to a life of leisure after he married an heiress named Nora. Nick gets dragged back into detecting when people involved with a missing scientist (the "Thin Man" of the title) start dropping dead. Nick and Nora crack the case while trading witty repartee and downing enough alcohol to make Don Draper's liver scream for mercy.

I think Depp can pull off Nick Charles. He can clean up well when he has to, and he's got the comedic and action chops needed to play the snappy private eye.

But Depp's not the problem.

The problem will be Nora Charles.

Nora has to be young, beautiful, intelligent, confident, witty, and above all have powerful chemistry with the man playing Nick. You can't just slap any pretty face in the part, she has to mesh with her cinematic hubby perfectly.

The reason there were six hit Thin Man films in Hollywood's Golden Age was because William Powell and Myrna Loy worked so beautifully together. Watch those films, and see that their banter is like watching to great jazz musicians riffing off each other. They're sexy, playful, charming, and above all, seem completely natural with each other. They made it seem effortless, when it was in fact, very hard work.

That's what Depp & Co. need in a lead actress. They can't limit themselves to just the people on the magazine covers, they need to look long and hard to find just the right match.

Because if they don't, then The Thin Man could wither away to nothing really quickly.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #617: Random Snark Attack!

Welcome to the show folks...

The news pickings are a little slim today, so I'm just going to let loose my inner troll & snark like a bastard. (As if I don't do that normally)

1. Mel Gibson is set to do a cameo in The Hangover 2. Why do a cameo, I say have him co-star in by having him wake up after a night on the town with the Hangover guys and wondering why everyone is calling him a psycho-racist-asshat.

2. Dimension Films is eager to make a sequel to their late-summer bomb Piranha 3D. Why do they want to make a movie that tanked at the box office, well there are two reasons:

A) The Weinstein Company literally doesn't have anything else to do right now.

B) It will really piss off James Cameron. (Which is worth it all by itself)

3. Adrien Brody is suing to prevent the release of
the Italian thriller Giallo, which is the Italian term for an Italian thriller, confused yet? Anyway he agreed to do the film, which was directed by Italian horror-legend Dario Argento for $640,000. The producers plead poverty and that they had to pay him after the film was done, and this new contract gave him final say on whether or not the film could be released if he didn't get his money. According to Brody, the film was finished, but the money never came.

My prediction, the production company will end up declaring bankruptcy, leaving an overly complicated rights situation that will not be solved for years to come.

The lesson here:
Always get your money up front.

4. Hollywood is now eager to get the creator of TV's
Glee to do a remake of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.


Well, I asked some executives at 20th Century Fox and this was their response:

That wasn't much help, so here's my theory.

It's because they did some of the songs on Murphy's show

Seriously, Fox Studios wants to remake a movie that cannot possibly enjoyed while sober because some of the flick's songs were on a show that some viewer are already griping as having jumped the shark, and will probably be dead and buried at about the halfway point of the already contractually obligated 3rd season.

Dear Fox, this is what's called the bottom of the remake gutter, you've just hit it.

Don't start digging.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #616: Marvel Money / Like A Virgin

Welcome to the show folks....


The Walt Disney Company has paid Paramount around $115 million+ to end their distribution contract with Marvel a couple of years early. While Paramount will still release Thor, Disney will directly handle the upcoming Avengers movie, and Iron Man 3 completely in house. Aside from the initial $115 million Paramount will also get a piece of the action from the two movies they gave up to Disney.

Of course that's if both films don't mysteriously "lose" millions in the dark and mysterious maze of studio accounting where madness doth dwell. That would be a lawsuit I'd pay to see.

Anyway, it's a good deal for Paramount, while they loved to claim the box office totals on their press releases, they had to hand over 92% of those revenues back to Marvel. They could use the cash to further their ability to produce their own material, which they almost completely gave up when they became utterly dependent on Marvel and Dreamworks which are now both gone.

If anyone has anything to worry about, it's the crew from Jackass 3D, a $50 million opening weekend means that Paramount's going to force them to endure more grievous groin injuries for at least 3 more movies.


Richard Branson's new Virgin film production whatever has announced its first project. It will be a big budget movie about Christopher Columbus, to be done in the style of Zack Snyder's 300, but directed by McG.

I'd like to take a moment to speak directly to Mr. Branson.

Mr. Branson, Richard, Richie, if I may... I have something to say about this Christopher Columbus movie project:









300 was a hit because it was a blood & guts celebration of violence, masculine power, and resistance against religious fanaticism in the form of the mindlessly obedient followers of Xerxes the "god emperor" of Persia.

What is McG going to do, a dramatic slow motion shot of Columbus' sailors unintentionally sharing smallpox with the Natives?

Here are some other problems that will pop up with the production:

1. Politics: If the film goes by Columbus' reports, there will accusations of cannibalism against the Carib Indians, which will get people protesting against it the way they did over the Columbus anniversary in 1992.

2. McG's record as a filmmaker: It's pretty lackluster with even guaranteed blockbusters losing money because they cost too damn much. His background is in music videos, which means less interest in telling a good story, and more interest in just throwing money at creating overwrought visuals.

3. Story: It's been done to death and lacks the epic battles and melodrama that made 300 a hit. If you try to inject it into the film you'll end up bastardizing history even more than 300, because they at least had a massive epic battle, and not a few arquebus shots at ill tempered locals firing arrows. Let us not forget the last time producers tried to inject melodrama into the story, which badly damaged or pretty much destroyed the movie careers of almost everyone involved.

My advice, step back from this movie. Find another movie. If you want to make a historical action picture, try the Battle of Lepanto. It's like 300, but at sea, and even has a huge battle at the center, full of roaring cannon, sword-fights, and big sailing ships burning, sinking, and even exploding, and I don't think it's ever been done on film.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #615: Unstoppable Network Freefall, Or What?

Welcome to the show folks...

You know, I'm almost at the point where I can feel sorry for a major multinational corporation.


Pity poor NBC, their 10 pm schedule is doing even worse than when they had that black hole called the
Jay Leno Show. Their revenues are down, and The Tonight Show is doing even worse than Conan's tour of duty in key demographics, and Letterman's catching up to him, despite even his numbers not being anywhere near where they used to be.

It looks like this season, Jeff Zucker's last, is a
total washout, new shows can't attract viewers, existing shows can't keep viewers, and Comcast is going to have a really tough time rebuilding this pretty much shattered company.

You see NBC is in worse shape than just being behind the other big broadcast networks, it's suffering from years of mismanagement on a fundamental level.

Let's look at the field that NBC has to play on, and how viewers see its competition.

CBS: A bit old fashioned, a bit stodgy, but for the most part reliable when it comes to providing entertaining shows.

ABC: Mostly seen as the "chick network" because they've done well with female oriented programming like Grey's Anatomy, but a tad erratic with shows that have hot beginnings that then grow cold after a few seasons, like Ugly Betty.

FOX: The audience sees Fox as the hyperactive kid brother, eager to please, but often immature and silly, but occasionally capable of producing breakout hits, that they quickly make annoying through over-exposure.

This is the network that tried to take the audience out of the network TV equation. For years they thought that if they played the margins, and had enough product placement, you didn't need actual viewers to make money. The audience saw this, even when they didn't know it consciously, and stayed away. While CBS is viewed as comfortable an reliable, NBC is viewed as unpleasant, and unreliable.

This is a hard fall for the network that was once the home of the mega-hits like Seinfeld, Friends, Cheers, and The Cosby Show.

This will be Comcast's challenge when they take over NBC-Universal. They need to bring the audience back into the equation. They have to rebuild the brand as the home of actual 'must-see-TV' instead of its current status as 'must avoid TV.'

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Saturday Silliness Cinema: Derek Edwards VS The Mad Cow

Welcome to the show folks...

Time for my usual Saturday break from ranting about the business behind popular culture and have a little laugh. Today, Canadian comedian Derek Edwards, and his take on "Mad Cow" disease.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #614: The Fox And The Hulk

Welcome to the show folks...


20th Century Fox, one of the biggest studios in Hollywood, is having a bit of a slump. Not an NBC-Universal type all out creative-financial slump, but a bad case of the creative doldrums. Almost half their upcoming slate are remakes, sequels, or rehashes, they're finding it hard to attract top talent, and outside of
Avatar (one of their few "original" productions*) a lot of their productions have under-performed with audiences.

Now the article cites 2 reasons for these doldrums.

1. Fox is obsessed with being the hardest bargainers in the business.

2. Fox's upper management think that all they need is "brand management" using and reusing familiar titles based more on meeting release schedules over the quality of the story being told.

Here's what I think...

1. Hard bargaining is fine, I support it. But there is a point where your desire to save ends up costing more than you bargained for. I suggest crunching the numbers and finding where to be a hard bastard, and how hard a bastard you should be, before it starts to cost you more than making the occasional concession.

2. Sure, everyone loves franchises, they're lovely, and for the most part reliable. However, they have expiration dates, and there's nothing worse than flogging a dead horse, just ask Universal Pictures in the 1940s when they killed all their classic monster franchises with increasingly inane sequels. You need fresh ideas for new franchises, and for that you need fresh blood.

How do they get this fresh blood?

I think Fox should aggressively seek out new talent, recruit them, and create a new low budget division to develop their work.

Now I'm not talking about a rehash of Fox Atomic. Fox Atomic was a mistake, the whole branding of that division created the impression that the films it released weren't good enough for the "real 20th Century Fox," and its frequent declarations of targeting the "youth market" did nothing but turn off the youth they were targeting.

This division must have no obvious public connection to 20th Century Fox. It must have a completely separate corporate identity, and must never openly say that they're targeting the youth market, because there's nothing youth hate more than people who obviously chase after their dollars. Its mission would be to produce modestly budgeted commercially oriented films that target not a demographic, but gaps in the market. I'm talking about mid-range action films that aim for suspense and thrills over cartoonish CGI, comedies, and horror films. It should also make these films for home video, television, and theatrical markets.

Talent will show, deadwood will fall to the side, and those that prove their mettle, both creatively and commercially, can graduate to working directly for Fox Studios.

But how can they keep them from going to work with another studio? Iron clad indentured servitude by contract? No.

You keep them by treating them right. Pay them what they're owed, when they're owed it, don't play any silly games with them, and also trust the filmmakers who prove themselves worthy of trust.

Then they will want to stay with Fox, create new material, and keep the company from getting stale, and turning into Universal.

*If any rehash of Pocahontas meets Ferngully in blue-face, can ever be called "original."


The ABC Network, which is owned by Disney, is working with Marvel Comics (another Disney property) to develop a live action Incredible Hulk TV series. They are currently looking for a show-runner, and there's a rumor that Guillermo Del Toro would like to get involved.

It's not the first time it's been done, but thanks to new technology, the Hulk can be the massive raw destructive force he's supposed to be instead of being just a large man in green body-paint.

Here are some of my suggestions for this new series:

1. Don't let David E. Kelley anywhere near it. Instead look for people with either a background in comics,, science-fiction and/or fantasy, or a passion for the source material.

2. Please let there be some villains. The original Hulk series eschewed the comic character's rogues gallery and in my opinion suffered for it. They could have just painted Lou Ferrigno blue, called it The Big Blue Angry Guy, and not paid Marvel at all. The Hulk shouldn't be a deus ex machina saving David Bruce Banner from whatever bland normal crook he happened to stumble across this week.

3. Let there be a supporting cast. The original series got very predictable because with Banner alone, and I mean truly alone, there were no really high stakes for him to face. You knew that whoever he met in any given episode wasn't going to be around for the next episode, so you didn't really worry about them.

And let's not forget the fact that in that TV series he was being pursued, not by the Army, but by a tabloid reporter. Just a tabloid reporter. That's it. Where is the army unit assigned to bring the monster under heel? What are the moral-ethical implications of their mission? Will they seek to weaponize the Hulk, or realize that the lack of control really does make him more of a threat than a potential resource? Perhaps some interaction with other elements of the Marvel Universe is in order? Could help promote the brand overall if you want to talk like an MBA yahoo.

4. Plan it all out before going on the air. I know I keep hammering at this, but you really need to have a serious plan. A well done sf-fantasy series can expect a 7 year run at the extreme most before it starts losing steam, and can only reach that goal if they have a definite narrative plan. No how it starts, how it flows, and then how it ends. It's not that hard, it just requires a little thought, and the ability to be flexible enough to face necessary changes in the situation when they happen.

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

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #613: Cuts & Labels

Welcome to the show folks....


The venerable British Broadcasting Corporation has begun cutting 16% of their Drama Department. That means 22 out of the Drama Department 140 member staff are getting their pink slips. Now while I don't like to see people lose their jobs, I have to agree with many of Britain's independent producers that it's long overdue.

There was a time when the BBC needed such a large drama department because they literally were the only network providing dramatic entertainment for the whole country. However, that time ended over 40 years ago.

During those 4 decades it went from being the only game in town, to one of several games, but with the mindset that it was still the glorious state fueled monopoly it once was. They made gestures to being more welcoming to independent drama producers with a new "sharing" system. Under this system the in-house producer clique got 50% of the time-slots and resources available, 25% went to independent producers, and both the in house club, and the outsiders got to fight for the remaining scraps.

Anyway, the in house production staffs got really big and bloated. Where a private company would have 3 or 4 people on any given team set on any given task, the BBC equivalent would have 10-20 people.

That's the nature of bureaucracies. Those who get control of any taxpayer financed operation seeks to increase their budgets, and their power by expanding and inflating their personal fiefdom beyond any legitimate operational reason. With too many people doing nothing but justifying their immediate supervisor's existence/salary, things tend to get ossified, hard to navigate, and next to impossible to properly manage. You have producers, operating on full salary, who don't actually produce anything. A public broadcaster is supposed to be a vital alternative, not a retirement home for the British equivalent of ward heelers doing 'no-show' jobs.

In an age of media consolidation, one of the things that a public broadcaster can do is be an open door to independent producers with fresh blood and fresh ideas and give them the means and methods to grow and develop so they can eventually challenge the big boys in the open market. Massive in house production bureaucracies that sound wonderful in theory to bureaucrats are counter-productive in reality.


The Producers Guild of America want to stick their initials (PGA) next to the names in the "Produced by" credits, the way the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) does with Directors of Photography.

Now you're probably wondering why they want to do this.

The answer is simple: Too many people call themselves producers these days.

You see we all know the definitions of the other jobs, they are very specific. The writer writes the screenplay, the director makes the film, but the producer is the person who gets the film made.

There are many ways to contribute to getting a film made, and not all of them are created equal. They range from putting together the financing, organizing the hiring, firing, and development of the production, to just investing in the movie in question, those are what I call 'productive' producers. However the title can also be bestowed upon the future son-in-law of a studio vice president so he can tell the folks at the country club that his daughter didn't marry a barista from a failed all-vegan fair trade coffee shop in Santa Monica.

I'm not completely kidding here, the title of producer has gone to teenage children, wives, ex-wives, mistresses, and bookies.

Now the PGA knows that it can't completely expel the 'non-productive' producers. Sure they are dead weight, and you have to share your Best Picture Oscars with them, but the studios treat them as the necessary grease for the gears of Hollywood. The PGA label will hopefully show who is a productive producer, who meets the membership standards of the guild, and who just got the title because their daddy was owed money by someone at the studio.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #612: What Can A Lion Do?

Welcome to the show folks...

Today we're going to look at options, specifically the options facing the once venerable Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie. I think I've written more posts about MGM than MGM's released movies in theaters this decade, but I'm doing it again.


2 reasons.

1. MGM used to be the biggest game in town, boasting "more stars than the heavens" and many of the biggest and best films of Hollywood's golden age. That has to mean something, and even if it doesn't...

2. The movie needs as many viable competitors it can to survive as a business. Consolidation, synergy, and all those other crap buzzwords MBAs shit out to justify their existence have done more to make films blander, costlier, and downright stupider than ever before.

But there's a problem.

MGM has around $4 billion in debt hanging around it like a pair of cement shoes during one of Albert Anastasia's "fishing trips." That massive debt is the result of it spending the last 40+ years being passed around like the corporate equivalent of a spliff at Snoop Dogg's birthday party.

It does have a massive library, made up of what's left of MGM's post 1986 films, the United Artists library, as well as the libraries of now defunct companies like Orion, Polygram Filmed Entertainment, and American International Pictures. This brings in a couple of hundred million a year, but it's not enough to pay off the debt to anyone's satisfaction, and finance the fresh productions MGM needs.

So what can MGM do?

Right now it has 2 options.


Spyglass Entertaiment's plan is for MGM to declare bankruptcy, which is happening, the bondholders then trade their debt for ownership, and the company is restructured into a production only entity, jettisoning its marketing and distribution arms. Future productions would be mostly aimed at TV, and theatrical features would need to find outside distributors.


Mini-major/mega-indie Lionsgate Pictures is expressing interest in merging with MGM. This would combine the MGM and Lionsgate libraries, distribution, marketing, and production. I assume that Lionsgate will either absorb the MGM debt as their own, or accept MGM's bondholder-owners as shareholders in the new combined venture.

Let's look at the pros and cons of each plan, now pay attention, because this will be on the test.


1. It brings MGM's debt under heel. That debt
has been holding the company down for decades.

2. It gets new productions going which are essential if it's going to improve the value of the library.


1. It sacrifices distribution, which I think is a major disaster. The ability to put your movies in theaters is pure power in Hollywood. Sacrifice that power and you are in trouble. MGM will be the red-headed stepchild of their distributor, meant to be used and abused, not respected as a full and equal partner.

2. Any money saved from dropping marketing and distribution will be gone, paying for distributor fees and for the lawyers in the inevitable litigation over profit shares.


1. Lionsgate's status as a mini-major could make this a more equitable partnership.


1. I'm not sure what this plan is planning to do with the debt. Will Lionsgate give shares in their company as part of the merger? Will they just take on the debt? If they just take on the debt they could end up in the same crippled state as MGM, and then it would have claimed 2 companies instead of just one.

But there's another possibility...

Icahn is buying up MGM debt like a sailor on shore leave. If he forms an alliance with the other bondholders he could put himself in a stronger position to takeover Lionsgate for himself, and get MGM in the bargain as well.

So we're going to have to wait and see where all this is going to go.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #611: Another Random Snark Attack!

Welcome to the show folks...

Time for a few random snarks at the business of show biz.


John Woodward the political hack who ran the rapidly dissolving UK Film Council has a new job. He's going to work for a venture capital firm Arts Alliance that was founded by a UKFC board member, and this firm also got around £12 million in taxpayer money.

Now some are outraged at this development, but it was inevitable, if you don't understand, I'll take a moment to explain.

When you're a political appointee to a job like head of the UKFC, you are there not for your ability but as a reward for your loyalty and obedience to your political patrons.

Now you're probably wondering why this is a reward, isn't government service supposed to be about, well, service?

It's about service all right, but posts like the UKFC are more about self-service than public service.

It goes something like this.

Businesses give money to political parties to help them get elected.

Political parties that get elected appoint their most obedient minions to posts where they can dispense taxpayer money to the same businesses that gave the party money to get elected.

However, parties get voted out, so the obedient minions pre-arrange cushy high paying jobs with the businesses they gave taxpayer money to, in order to replace the cushy high paying job they lost with the change in government.

Those minions then guide their new employers to direct money to the political parties that give jobs to other minions, to give money to the companies to hire the next wave of minions to replace the previous minions who have all retired to country homes and winter getaways on the Mediterranean.

Rinse, then repeat, ad infinitum. It doesn't matter what party is in charge, it just keeps on trucking.

Some call it feather nesting, I call it THE CIRCLE OF BULLSHIT!


Carl Icahn has changed his position on Lionsgate going after MGM, from opposing it to supporting it. Why?

Here are my theories:

1. He wants Lionsgate mired in the MGM debt quagmire, debt that Icahn is buying up, in order to make it easier for him to later battle management for control of the company.

2. He wants a partnership between Lionsgate (which he owns a chunk of), and MGM (which he will own a chunk of under the bankruptcy plans) and try to get those chunks turned into a bigger, more powerful chunk.

How will this end?

I don't know.


Russian billionaire Len Blavatnik has inked a deal for his Icon UK film company to go into a financing partnership with the embattled Weinstein Company.

Oh Blavatnik, you poor bastard.

Shows that in Hollywood, history doesn't repeat itself, it gets a remake.


Film District, a new independent film production-distribution shingle is staffing up.

It's nice to see people being hired instead of fired, or laid off. This company will have an uphill battle ahead of them to make it in today's market, so I wish them good luck, and lots of it.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Horror The Horror!

Welcome to the show folks....

Egad, Halloween is just 20 days away, time for a young man's fancy to turn to thoughts of UNSPEAKABLE HORROR!

Okay.... Just kidding.

It's time to start looking at my favorite Halloween movies, and for you to look back at yours. Here's my list of fun and scary October movies in no particular order.

1. Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein: This film sets the template for how to do a horror comedy right. The comedy is handled by Abbot & Costello, and the monsters, the titular Frankenstein's Monster (Glen Strange), Dracula (Bela Lugosi), and the Wolfman (Lon Chaney jr.) all play their parts dead straight.

2. Suspiria: This film by Italian shock-meister Dario Argento is officially bat-shit crazy. It's extremely violent, gory, and surrealistically weird. It's about a dancer who goes to a special ballet academy in Germany, only to find out that it's run by a homicidal coven of witches. The movie is not for those of gentle, delicate, or nervous disposition because it does everything in an extremely over the top manner.

3. Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein: You can't have a list without one of the original Universal classics of the 1930-1940s. The films are stylishly shot, with spookily atmospheric sets, and deliciously hammy performances by all the cast, except Karloff, who humanizes his monster simply with grunts and facial expressions that manage to work their way through the heavy makeup.

4. The Changeling: Not the Clint Eastwood film about missing children, this is an old fashioned ghost story guaranteed to leave you feeling spooked out. George C. Scott plays a successful composer who moves back to his hometown to recover from the recent deaths of his wife and daughter in a car accident. He rents a big historic mansion only to discover that he isn't alone. There's a ghost in that house, it's pissed off, and it's also involved with a powerful Senator with a secret worth keeping. The film is almost perfect, delivering real scares without resorting to gore or excessive special effects. My only problem is with the ending, which seems rushed, like the production ran out of money and had to wrap things up quickly. There are some missed opportunities there, but still an enjoyable scary movie.

5. The Fog: This is the original by John Carpenter with Jamie Lee Curtis and Adrienne Barbeau. It's about a seaside town under siege by some vengeful ghost-lepers with a bone to pick with the locals and anyone that gets in their way. Despite the low budget and effects that would be considered primitive by today's digitized standards it still holds up pretty well, and has that great WTF ending.

6. The Curse of Frankenstein: Any horror film list needs an entry from Hammer Films. This film marked several milestones, having been their first horror film shot in color, the first pairing of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and sparking a late 1950-60s gothic horror revival. Considered very gory for its time, it's now milder than an episode of CSI.

7. The Howling: Part werewolf horror, part satire of the California self-help culture. A fun game to play is to spot the little in jokes planted throughout the film by director Joe Dante and writer John Sayles.

8. Halloween: The slasher film that took the formula set by the earlier Black Christmas, and took it to the next level. Forget the nonsensical remakes that tried to explain Michael Myers, because he's way scarier when there isn't any explanation at all.

9. The Thing/The Thing: Both the 1950s and the 1980s versions are good for their time and both can still be enjoyed today.

10. Deep Red: Dario Argento's classic giallo is all about a music teacher in Rome who finds himself in the middle of a murder case when he witnesses the murder of a mind reader who read the wrong mind. The plot is all over the place, the blood flows freely, and it is extremely violent. However, its manic plotting, strange supporting characters, psycho-groovy soundtrack, and hyper-stylish imagery draws you in and won't let you go. Also, when the hero solves the case, you'll be kicking yourself for overlooking the exact same clue at the beginning of the movie.

I got lots more horror movies, but I'd like to hear some of your favorites in the comments.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Saturday Silliness Cinema: David O'Doherty

Welcome to the show folks...

Time to take my usual Saturday break from ranting about the business behind popular culture for a laugh. Today, in honor of the combined Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I'm showing a video that has nothing to do with either.

It's Irish comedian David O'Doherty, and he has some beefs to share...

Friday, 8 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #610: Random Snark Attack!

Welcome to the show folks...


Warner Bros. Pictures has decided to drop plans to convert their 2-part finale to the Harry Potter franchise into 3D.

Apparently someone at the studio had the crazy idea that the 3D
conversion might negatively affect the quality of the finished film. This is especially true of the Harry Potter series, because both the conversion process, and the glasses needed to see 3D, darken everything and Deathly Hallows will no doubt have many scenes set at night, in caves, and lit only by candles, torches, and the occasional magical glowing thing.

I am surprised that a major Hollywood studio would go for quality over the fad-based financial panacea that everyone in power thinks 3D will be.

There might be some hope for Hollywood yet. Not much, but some.


And water is wet.


No, the venerable actor Al Pacino is not playing a 1930s pulp hero, he has been signed to play music legend/convicted murderer Phil Spector, to be made by David Mamet.

So remember Al, the key word is ABC- Always Be Crazy!

That's all for now, if I don't see you before then, Happy Columbus Day to all you Yankees and Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #609: Comics, TV, & More Comics

Welcome to the show folks...

Time to look at some little stories, and then my little mind can offer my little opinion.... Wait a minute?

Anyway, let's get down to business.


DC Comics has chopped the price of their 32 page issues from $3.99 to $2.99.

The fact that this is big news definitely says something. When I was a kid my earliest comic book related memories was buying Batman, Brave & The Bold, Justice League, Justice Society, and World's Finest* for 45¢ Canadian each. In my youth I could get a comic book, a bottle of Coke, a bag of chips, and a night with a prostitute for $2.99. Okay, I kid, it wasn't the full night.

However, this really doesn't do much to solve some of the problems the comics industry is facing.

Reason #1. Retailers. There aren't enough of them. Back when I was spending $2.99 on comics, junk food, and wild living you could find comics in every corner store. Now, I would have to go on a 3 hour drive from my house to find a place that sells monthly issues on a regular basis.

Why do I have to travel so far to find a comic book?

Reason #2. The Physical Product. Non-specialty retailers hate, and I mean HATE carrying monthly issues. They're flimsy, they damage easily, they don't fit on their magazine racks very well, and the profit margin on them is razor thin of not non-existent.

Reason #3. The Creative Product. Comics can't attract new readers. It's a simple fact of life. People will pay to see the movies made from comics, but when it comes to buying the books themselves, it's a very different story. They go to their nearest comics shop see that the character they're interest in is featured in a dozen different monthly magazines, each one in the middle of their own elaborate multi-issue story arc that requires full understanding of a continuity that goes back, in some cases, decades. The average new reader literally doesn't know where to start.

While the price cut may help DC sales for a little while, I just think that when it comes to solving the big problems the industry is facing, they might be a day late and a dollar short.


NBC's legal drama Outlaw has gone on a "production hiatus." Basically the network ordered them to stop making new episodes, and while they haven't officially canceled it yet, they don't seem to making any plans to air anything beyond the 5 or so episodes they already have in the can.

I tried watching the premiere of the show for two reasons, chiefly Conan O'Brien's Conaco company was producing it, and I thought he could use the support, and because the star Jimmy Smits was always a reliable and likable presence on the screen.

Then I saw the premise in action. Smits plays a conservative Supreme Court justice, with a gambling problem that the media hasn't pounced on like a cheetah on a lame gazelle for some reason. This Supreme Court Justice has one of those Ebenezer Scrooge epiphanies, learns the errors of his ways, quits the highest bench in the land, and become a street level lawyer fighting for the down and the trodden.

That's not a premise for a hit show. That's the sort of premise you sell to folks at the Beverly Hills Country Club, not at the Peoria Municipal Golf Course. Here's why I knew it was doomed to fail in the first five minutes. Even if a conservative Supreme Court Justice was visited by the ghosts of judges past and has a change of political philosophy, they are extremely unlikely to leave the court. They just simply vote the other way. Case in point, George H.W. Bush appointee David Souter, who was expected to be a strict constructionist, but instead voted with his more liberal colleagues more often than not.

And let's not forget flyover country, where the bulk of the TV audience lives. A lot of polls are showing an increasingly conservative population, possibly not as socially conservative as many expected, but definitely more conservative, small "L" libertarian, and strict constructionist than Hollywood would care to admit. When they see a character who they might have agreed with, shed all that they would have agreed with, and then claim to be a repentant sinner, they are going to feel that their beliefs and intelligence have just been insulted.

And let's face facts, Hollywood's record at handling the whole liberal/conservative divide hasn't been exactly all that great in a very long time. The audience knows that little tidbit, and they tune out accordingly. The only people who don't know this, is Hollywood.

It doesn't matter what side of the political aisle you're on, it's just plain bad strategy. That's why I thought the whole thing was Conan O'Brien's plot to get revenge on NBC, tricking them into spending millions on a guaranteed bomb.


Former Marvel Comics mastermind Stan Lee is doing a new project, creating 30 new superheroes in partnership with the National Hockey League.

The plan is for Lee to create an NHL themed superhero for each of the NHL member cities. Then they're going to do you know, stuff, with these characters, and supposedly watch the cash roll in.

Sorry I can't share their excitement, here's why.

1. 90% of the time obvious product placement creations fail, because they lack any real creative calories being burned over a sincere passion project.

2. Stan Lee hasn't exactly burned up the charts with new creations in a very long time. In fact, I'd peg it sometime around the late 1970s when things started to fizzle out for him. He needs partners like Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby to produce the sort of magic he did in the 1960s. Without them to nudge along the good ideas, and shoot down the bad ones, he's at a loss.

Personally, I can't blame Stan Lee for doing stunts like this. He spent decades seeing others become rich off his creations. If he can't coast on his past for easy money in his golden years, then nobody can.


*Yes, I was a DC rat, still am for the most part.