Thursday, 29 December 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #829: Selling Summit

Indie movie studio Summit Entertainment is up for sale, but the sale itself probably won't go through until some time in 2012.

Now I think I should start with a little history to flesh out the story, before I get to the issue at hand.

Summit Entertainment started in 1991 primarily to handle sales of film rights to foreign markets for a partnership of independent producers.  As the 1990s progressed, the company's mission expanded into co-producing movies, and finally evolving into the independent producer and distributor we all know today.

It's first few years were iffy, suffering a series of box office bombs but kept afloat by its position handling the foreign language release  for the lucrative first American Pie movie.

Summit Entertainment finally achieved real mega money success in 2008 with the Twilight franchise. The films, based on the epic book trilogy about a moody teenage girl torn between choosing to lose her virginity to necrophilia or bestiality raked in huge heaping piles of money from other moody teenage girls all over the world.

Lionsgate first started sniffing around Summit as a possible buyer around this time, but the deal was never consummated.

Now Lionsgate is back looking to climb the Summit, but this time it has competition with a bid from hedge fund Colony Capital.

So let's look at what both company's probably want from this deal, and what they will most likely do with the company...

Lionsgate is already the biggest independent movie distributor in North America. So it doesn't need Summit's distribution capabilities. What it most likely wants is to have the lucrative Twilight movies in their library.

Now let's look at the other suitor...
Colony Capital has been investing heavily in the independent movie business, and are co-owners of the once venerable Miramax company.

Now there are two possible scenarios behind their purchase of Summit.

#1. In keeping with the way they're running Miramax, they are simply looking to beef up their film library, primarily with the Twilight movie franchise, and all the moody teenage girl money it can bring in.  Summit's other films are just extras because, let's be honest here, the company hasn't exactly peaked with their non-Twilight movies.  


#2. Colony Capital is looking to set up their own distribution for Miramax, and revive it as viable and functioning independent movie studio that produces and releases new films instead of just trying to coast on what others have made before them.

Personally, I hope that scenario #2 is what Colony Capital is looking for.  Because while the domestic box office is at a 16 year low, that low is primarily caused by massive gaps in the market caused by the inattentive, narrow minded, major studios.  There is room for an enterprising, lean and efficient movie company to step in and fill those gaps.

When the bidding starts afresh in the New Year, I hope the best bidder with the best plan wins.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #828: A Not So Sweet 16

16 years.

Movie box office in 2011 hasn't been this low for 16 years.  And is just another chapter in an ongoing decline in the whole movie business, with only occasional monster mega-hits like Avatar creating the increasingly rare upward blip. 

Why is the movie biz in such doldrums?

Well, it's the movie business's own damn fault and here's why... 

1. THEY FORGOT WHAT BUSINESS THEY'RE IN:  Go find any movie studio CEO and ask them what they do and you will get a whole load of hooey about how their job is to maximize shareholder value blah blah through asset management blah-blah on a quarterly yadda-yadda and a whole lot of bullshit that you can only get with a Harvard business degree.

What this corporate baffle-gab forgets is exactly how they maximize shareholder value, and that is by selling stories to the public.

It's a vital need people have whether they know it or not, and the proof can be found in everyone's childhood. What's one of the first things a child asks for that doesn't involve immediate survival issues?

They say: "Tell me a story."

People want stories, they crave stories, and they are willing to pay money for a wide variety of them.

The problem with Hollywood is that they show as much respect to the story as you would to something you find stuck to your shoe.  Story to Hollywood is an inconvenient necessity, a cheap excuse to string together increasingly expensive gimmicks like 3D and so-called "movie stars."

2. THEY'RE DISCONNECTED FROM THE AUDIENCE & THE AUDIENCE IS THE ONLY ONE THAT KNOWS IT:  I call the area that encompasses the movie business the Axis of Ego because it is definitely not part of the real world.

It's like that scene in an old episode of The Simpsons where they try to teach Krusty the Clown to do "observational humor," and his first attempt involves a story about his butler and his sock garters.

In Hollywood that's not too far from the truth.  We're talking about a community insulated from reality through layers of money and media adoration. A crippling sense of group-think dominates the movie business, and this group-think dictates to them that anyone who lives or believes differently from them is somehow less evolved and/or outright evil.

They think that all they need to do is bombard the screen with gimmicks, loud noises, and pretty faces, and the sheep-like masses of the great unwashed will flock to the theaters. The problem is that the gimmicks are now being seen by audiences as a sign of the poor quality of the movie's story, and are voting to stay home and watch the more narratively rewarding product popping up on TV, or the internet.

3. THE BLOCKBUSTER IS KILLING THE SLEEPER:  When I was young it wasn't uncommon to see something called a "sleeper hit."  Sleepers were films that weren't meant to be big blockbusters, but they had qualities that appealed to audiences and thanks to word of mouth and modestly budgeted but well structured marketing campaigns became very profitable and popular. 

Nowadays films that would otherwise have been sleeper hits, are being buried by the studios and their hunger for big blockbuster opening weekends.  They can't buy TV advertising to find their audiences because the big movies and their massive blanket-style ad campaigns sucked up all the air time.  Now while the internet has created alternative outlets for them to get the word out about their movie, it doesn't really matter. These same films can't book screen-time because the majors are cramming the latest Adam Sandler anus opus into 3,000 screens on the same opening weekend as the 4,000 screen release of the latest remake, and the 3,500 screen release of the latest re-imagining of a board game into a big budget movie.

Why bother hiring a sitter, getting in the car, driving across town, paying for parking, tickets, and snacks if the movie you're actually interested in isn't going to be there?

Hollywood is trying to replace the "sleeper" with the "awards movie" because they don't have to be sold to the punters in flyover country.  Sure, awards movies don't make much money, but it's not like the people running the movie companies are going to lose sleep over that, their big media-conglomerate parent companies will keep them afloat.

If these trends aren't changed, and soon, I think the entire movie business might reach...

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #827: Who Watches The Watchmen?

Suspected Watchmen 2 artwork.
Unless you've been living in a cave without internet, you've probably heard the rumors of DC Comics preparing some sort of a prequel and/or sequel to their seminal 80s miniseries The Watchmen.  Those rumors kicked into overdrive when some possible test-art was leaked.

Now some folks are screaming blasphemy. These nattering nabobs of negativity are saying that Watchmen is the comic equivalent of holy writ, and that DC should never touch it.

Hmmm.... now if what I'm talking sounds like complete gibberish, I'll deliver some background.

Watchmen started out as a passing notion at DC Comics in the early 1980s.  They had recently purchased all the superhero characters from the failing Charlton Comics company, and were looking for something to do with them.

DC wanted to do something really radical with these characters, so they contacted British writer Allan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons to do it. Except Allan Moore's ideas were a little too radical for DC Comics, since it involved most of the expensive Charlton characters ending up dead and/or out of action and DC decided to incorporate them into the mainstream DC continuity instead.

But DC told Moore to go ahead with his idea, but to create new versions of the Charlton characters and use them instead.  Moore and Gibbon created the Watchmen and history was made.

Watchmen broke new ground as probably the most intelligently constructed comic book of all time. Every facet of the comic book medium was used to tell the story from the dialogue and drawings to even the panel layouts.  

It spawned legions of imitators and one movie that itself spawned mixed feelings, and changed the comics medium forever, for better and for worse.

Now let's get back to the issue at hand, which is DC comics and their proposed sequel or prequel to Watchmen.

There is one simple, undeniable fact about Watchmen that you must know.

It is the sole property of DC Comics.

The project was started by DC comics, Allan Moore and Dave Gibbons were hired to create a project that DC would own, even the characters they created for that project are pastiches of DC property. Besides, Moore washed his hands of any involvement with Watchmen and DC Comics back in the 1980s.  He won't even accept royalties or credit for it.

That means that DC Comics and its parent company, Time-Warner can do whatever the hell they want with Watchmen.

That means that if they want to do this....
They can.

But we live in a free society, so that means that if you are one of those people who are currently having a shit-fit about new Watchmen material, you have an option...


As my grandfather said: "Don't even ignore them." No one is going to force you to buy it, or even pay attention to it. 

It worked for me after the first Star Wars prequel, and I used this method to good effect with Indiana Jones & The Crystal Cup Of Metamucil.

Face it, we live in an age where the people in charge of popular culture think the only way to succeed is to completely bastardize the childhood memories of my generation. The only way to make them stop doing that is to stop such bastardization from being profitable.

That means when something like this comes up, and you feel offended by its very existence: Ignore it and don't spend money on it. The hype they get from these "controversies" combined with the cult of fanboy completism are why comics publishers think they can get away with anything and everything, and usually do.

Fans need to put their outrage and their eagerness aside, and let projects sink or swim on their own merits and not for the hype they can generate.

It's just that simple.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #826: Xmas Drippings From My Brain Pan...


A court has ordered independent producer Bob Yari and his companies to shell out $12 million to writer/director Paul Haggis, star Brendan Fraser, and others over profits from the film Crash.

The fact that what should be a normal business procedure requires lawyers, judges, and various and sundry recriminations is a sad statement on the way the movie biz operates.

Mike Shaw at Britain's Independent newspaper wrote a piece about how Hollywood's attempts at making Christmas movies usually fall short because they're unwilling to embrace the darker emotions found around the season.  It sort of fits a piece I wrote last year about Hollywood's inability to drum up the sincerity needed to make a decent Christmas movie.


Hollywood uber-scribe Aaron Sorkin's new HBO series about behind the scenes in a cable TV newsroom now has an official title: The Newsroom.

A little on the nose, if you ask me, but also a tad familiar.... at least to me.

You see, Canada already had a series called The Newsroom.  It was created by writer / director / actor Ken Finkleman who returned to his native Canada after years slogging in the Hollywood trenches grinding out sequels, Madonna movie, and script-doctoring on sitcoms to do his own show his way.

It starred Finkleman as George Findlay, a petty, vain, selfish, insensitive, ignorant, scheming neurotic with chronic constipation, who was the producer of a nightly TV news show.  The show was darkly funny as Findlay tried to get ahead, get laid, or get both with things becoming more abstract and surreal as the show progressed.  It was also unique in the fact that it had several limited run dramas spun-off the show also featuring the Findlay character that ran between the three seasons of The Newsroom.

Now while it has the same title, I'm sure that Sorkin's show will be very different.  Loaded with lot's of noble archetype journalists walking up and down hallways talking very quickly as they declare their integrity and complain about Fox News.

Hmmm.... now that I think about it, maybe they should hire Finkleman for a rewrite.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Trailer Trashing: Happy Hobbitukkah!

It's Hanukkah, and the trailer for the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has come out.  Watch, and pass your judgments in the comments...

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #825: Two Random Drips...


Micheal G. Wilson, long-time producer, and occasional writer for the James Bond franchise, said that he would like current Bond, Daniel Craig, to do 5 more 007 movies and beat Roger Moore's longevity.

Now I like Craig as Bond, and I've been a fan of the franchise since I was a little kid and saw Dr. No back in the days when they showed older feature films on network TV, however, I don't think he's going to make it to eight Bonds.

He's 43 now shooting his third film Skyfall, and in a best case scenario there would be a new Bond movie out every two years, meaning that he will be 53+ by the time he wraps up that sort of commitment.  Now we all remember Roger Moore's long run with the franchise, but instead of remembering his wit, and romantic charm, we remember that he was kept a little too long at the fair.  Even he noticed that his "Bond Girls" looked more like daughters than lovers.

And that's if there's a best case scenario.  MGM's financial situation hasn't been particularly stable in a very long time, and that situation caused Skyfall to be set back four years after Quantum of Solace.

I personally see Craig doing two more after Skyfall at the most, if the 2 year schedule's maintained, and then retiring gracefully to a younger actor.  Might I suggest....
Think about it...what I lack in wit, charm, sex appeal, and he-man action heroics I make up for in... uh.... hmmm.....


The new owners of the one time indie powerhouse Miramax Pictures have discovered a new business model for the movie company.

Don't make movies.

And it seems to be working, deals involving the Miramax film library have added up to $325 million.

Now while this sounds all well and good, it's not the best way to run a movie company.  Having a nice, desirable library with a lot of award winning or popular movies is wonderful, and the revenue that such a library can generate is even nicer.

However, there will come a time when the outlets who pay for access to that library will take a look at what you have, sigh, and say: "What else have you got?"

If you don't have anything else, then you're screwed.

Movie libraries need to be constantly and consistently replenished, because their value lies in their constant and steady growth, because that growth builds long term relationships between the companies who own the libraries, and the outlets who pay good money to put out those movies.  Outlets will ask themselves: 

"Hey, do I want to buy movies from Company A that has X number of titles, and Y number of new titles that come in every year? Or should I buy from Company B, who have Z number of titles, and nothing new coming down the pike?"

In the long run they will prefer to deal with Company A, because they know that once they burn through the current library, there's new product on the way. Companies that don't constantly and consistently create new product, eventually get swallowed up by those who do.

Which may be the whole plan behind the new Miramax in the first place.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #824: Share Of What?

The year is almost over and folks are looking back at the year that was, and Nikki Finke posted a report on where the studios stand, market-share wise....

1. Paramount - projected $1.9B

They're  number one, but this one comes with an asterisk since they acted as just a distributor for some of their biggest money-makers rather than the usual studio role as producer and distributor.  They did unseat Warner Bros. from the top slot for the first time in three years, and are considered likely to hold onto it if Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol lives up to the promise shown in its initial limited release.

2. Warner Bros – projected $1.8B

First time in 3 years they haven't been the number 1 studio, but they really have nothing to complain about since they've been either #1 or #2 for most of the past decade.  What they do have to worry about is what they're going to after next year when Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy wraps up, and the Harry Potter money factory closes its doors.

3. Sony Pictures - projected $1.3B

Sony went for a low risk/high reward strategy. Cutting back on its output of obvious big budget blockbusters this year, going for smaller budgeted but commercially appealing films.  It seems to have worked well, keeping them safely in the middle of the pack.

4. Disney – projected $1.2B

Muppets had a good opening, but quickly ran out of steam, and Cars 2 made money, but mostly because it was the only major Pixar release this year, and Pixar is pretty much a license to print money, even with the lackluster Cars franchise.

5. Universal - projected $1B

While no longer at the bottom of shit creek, Universal did drop more than few bombs and pretty much owes their position as next to the bottom to Bridesmaids and that last Fast & Furious sequel.

6. Fox - projected $950M

As I wrote before, Fox has pretty much out-foxed themselves by not knowing the difference between being cost-conscious and just plain cheap.

But what does it mean to be to be #1 or #6 when overall box office is in an ongoing, and seemingly never-ending slump, and people, like the folks at Filmdrunk, are starting to blame the slump on the studios, their laziness and their extreme lack of imagination?  It doesn't matter if you're on top of the shit-pile or the bottom, you're still going to stink.

The folks at Filmdrunk have a point when they ask when was the last time you were actually excited to go see a movie in a theater? How many times were you excited to see a movie, only to be disappointed by a lackluster story and overdoses of visual trickery?

These are questions the studios should be asking. There's a terrible disconnect between show-business' Axis of Ego and the rest of the planet Earth. The problem is that the people running Hollywood are so scared of getting fired before they cash out their next quarterly bonus they honestly have no idea what to do, and will do anything and everything in their power to keep out anyone who might rock the boat and empty it of all the dead weight that slowly sinking it.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #853: Offensive Or Just Unfunny?

The show is about two men who are so desperate to find work disguise themselves as women to get jobs as sales reps for a pharmaceutical company. The LGBT groups saw the promotional material for the show and are demanding that it be banned before it's even aired because it will somehow make them the objects of scorn, if not violence by the yahoos of the world.

Now while I don't like the thought of banning any sort of media, even if it offends people, I do have to wonder why on Earth was the project green-lit in the first place.

I saw most of the same promotional materials, including clips of the show, that the offended groups saw, and I didn't see anything that would subject them to scorn or possible violence.

What I did see was evidence of a painfully unfunny show based on a flimsy premise that leaves the creators and the network responsible for it as objects of scorn and possible violence by fans of comedy. 

There are only 3 reasons why the ABC Network would put this show on the air...
1.  ABC hates people. 

Not LGBT people, but the whole of humanity in general. They want everyone within broadcast range of this show to suffer. Centuries from now aliens will come across the signals of this show bouncing through the cosmos and treat it as an act of war.

2. The creator of the show has incriminating stuff on top ABC Brass.  

Blackmail is definitely a possibility, though if I did have proper extortion material on the brass of a TV network, I would have at least tossed out a better premise. Like my idea for a sitcom about optimistic meth addicts called "Best Tweek Ever!"

3. ABC somehow thinks they can recreate the golden days of Bosom Buddies.  

For those of you too young to remember Bosom Buddies was the last time someone tried to use cross-dressing as the foundation of a sitcom.

It starred a young Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari as two guys struggling to make it in advertising who disguise themselves as women to get a spot in the women-only Susan B. Anthony Hotel after losing their apartment.  

Now the show did have a strong opening, mostly due to the appeal, chemistry, and improvisational skills of Hanks and Scolari. However the first season was cut short by labor troubles, and ratings plunged in the second season, ending the show pretty quickly. In 1984 the NBC network ended up owning the show and ran it as summer filler because Hanks had exploded as a movie star thanks to the success of Splash, and Peter Scolari's scene stealing work on the hit show Newhart. The reruns did very well for NBC, but since the stars had moved onto greener pasture any thoughts of reviving the show faded quicker than its original run.

Now even Bosom Buddies dropped the cross-dressing aspect of the show as quickly as they could in the second season. Having their secret revealed to their neighbors and them being granted permission to stay as the building's token men. They didn't try to prolong it any further because even the people behind Bosom Buddies knew it was a thin premise based on, according to legend, a misunderstanding during the pitch session that made the network brass think they were getting a TV ripoff re-imagining of Billy Wilder's cross-dressing comedy Some Like It Hot.

The premise is fitting for, at best, an episode of a sitcom, but not an entire sitcom.  The fact that no one at the network seems capable of seeing this says a lot more about the near-sightedness and piss-poor comedic instincts of ABC's management than any potential offense to the LGBT community.

Now the really sad part of this fiasco is that at the heart of this is a missed opportunity. If the pharmaceutical sales field is as female dominated as the show says it is, then you have a possible premise with legs.  Two guys from a normally male dominated sales field, like cars, get laid off and are hired to be the "tokens" in a sales department staffed and run almost exclusive by women.  The men suddenly find themselves the "minority" and are viewed by their new colleagues as incapable because of their gender.  Stories could come from interactions with their bosses, co-workers, customers, and clients.

That might have worked, but it's the sort of idea that isn't a rehash of a fairly vague memory so no network would touch it.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Cinemaniacal: Robert E. Howard & TV: Never The Twain Shall Meet?

Regular reader Rainforest Giant asked...
Hey Furious, When are we going to get more question and answer sessions? 
How about a short one right now.  Gotta question?
I want to know why R.E. Howard hasn't been successfully adapted to the little screen (other than 'Pigeons from Hell'). He has had a deeper influence on the fantasy field than anyone other than Tolkien and his stories are kick-ass action, manly-men, and beautiful women in various stages of undress-distress. 'The Horror from the Mound' is a classic creepy short story that raised the hairs on my neck when I was a kid. Conan has a good name and would guarantee an audience
I guess you didn't like the animated and live action attempts simply because they sucked the balls of Thoth-Amon?

Well, it's a much more involved question than you might think, so I going to have to go off on one of my lecturing tangents.

For the illiterate out there who don't know nuttin' about nuttin' Robert Ervin Howard was a Texas based writer active in the 1920s until his death by suicide in 1936 at the age of 30. 

During his short life he was extremely prolific, grinding out dozens, if not hundreds, of short stories, novellas, and poems at a nearly super-human rate.  

Howard wrote in multiple genres, Westerns, Detective Stories, Historical Adventure, Boxing Stories, Horror, and the genre he practical invented, the Sword & Sorcery sub-genre of Fantasy fiction starring Conan the Barbarian of Cimmeria.

Sword and Sorcery was a grittier, grimier, and greasier version of fantasy fiction. It dealt with rough and tough characters living in a brutal world of mystery and magic surviving by their wits and strength.  No character was rougher and tougher than Conan the Barbarian, described thus by Howard:
"Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet."
Conan was not a noble knight on a quest to save the whatever from the dark forces of whosis. He was a thief and a mercenary who was usually busy looking out for number one, himself.  That's not to say that he didn't fight evil doers. Conan had his own moral code, and many of those who did evil during Conan's "Hyborian Age," made the mistake of pissing him off.

Conan was a wildly popular character among fans of the fantasy and adventure pulp magazines that published them, and was adapted several times. First into comic books by Marvel, and then into a feature film that marked a then semi-unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger as an up and coming star.  That movie was a modest hit, but the franchise was pretty much killed by the general shittiness of its sequel Conan The Destroyer.

A proposed Conan the Conqueror film was put on hold by the smell coming off of Destroyer, and by Schwarzenegger fulfilling his contract to Dino DeLaurentiis and getting as far away from the franchise as he could.  A version of the project was eventually made as the inane Kull The Conqueror, replacing Conan with one of Howard's less famous creations, Kull of Atlantis.

But then there were the TV adaptations. There were two animated versions of Conan, the less said about them the better, and then there was the live action TV series Conan (AKA Conan The Adventurer) that ran for one season in the late 1990s.

How can I sum up the Conan live action TV series?  Let me think.... hmmm.....

Oh, I got it.


The producers saw the popularity of the campy fantasy shows like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and Xena: Warrior Princess, and said: 

"Hey, let's take a familiar name like Conan the Barbarian, slap it on some scripts rejected by those other shows, hire a big German that will remind people of Schwarzenegger and we'll have a smash-hit!"

Of course to follow the whole Hercules/Xena fad they also transformed him from the sullen and violent warrior and thief into a lovable lug in a loincloth assisted by a cadre of cutesy sidekicks to flesh out the hopefully inevitable toy-line.

The show sank faster than the Lusitania, and most fantasy fans tried to block it out of their memories.

Now you folks know a little history, let's take a moment to examine the pros and cons of bringing the works of Robert E. Howard to the small screen.


1. Howard is still a very popular author with a wide range of fans.

2. Howard wrote hundreds of short stories in multiple genres, most of them loaded with lots of colorful characters, over the top physical action in exotic locations. Each short story is a nice compact episode of of action and adventure.

3. Howard created many characters and settings that could go beyond their source material to provide exciting genre television if they were done well.  There's:

-Conan, natch. 

-Solomon Kane, a dour Puritan in the early 1600s who battled evildoers from vandals to vampires and everyone in between.

-Kull of Atlantis, a barbarian conqueror of an ancient empire rife with decadence, black magic, and palace intrigue.

-Bran Mak Morn, king of the Picts who battled both Roman invaders and supernatural forces.

-Sailor Steve Costigan, the hero of a series of comical tales about a boxing sailor with "fists of steel, a will of iron and a head of wood." 

-El Borak, the Arabic nickname of F.X. Gordon a Texas gunslinger who becomes a legendary adventurer in Afghanistan in the 1900s.

-Dark Agnes de Chastillon, a short-tempered red-headed swords-woman making her way in the man's world of 16th century Europe.

Now this is just a partial list of the characters and stories Howard created. You could literally do an anthology series rotating between his characters, and probably have more than enough stories for a strong seven season run, with just the material Howard wrote.

3. Developments in production and visual effects technology, and the opening up of distinctive shooting locations in Eastern Europe means that you could produce historical and fantasy themed programming much cheaply than you could ever do before.

Now let's look at the


1. This is Hollywood we're talking about.  The biggest problem they have when it comes to adapting Howard's work is that they're almost always trying to mold it into something else.  Even the first movie tried to change Conan's nature into some sort of avenger out to get back at the people responsible for the death of his parents.  

In the original stories, Conan just left his family and never looked back. He's an unsentimental, uneducated Hyborean equivalent of a hillbilly who is only looking for gold, good times, and bad women. He's not a classically heroic figure, but someone who gets thrust into being heroic against his wishes and better judgment.

Hollywood just can't seem to accept that, either making him into a Charles Bronson with a sword avenger, or a Kevin Sorbo Hercules rip-off with bigger muscles and a Teutonic accent.

2. There's always an element of covert sexuality in Howard's work. Many of the women in Howard's stories are strong, independent minded, and, more often than not find a reason to be scantily clad.  In adaption the scantily clad part is usually the only one that seems to survive. This makes these adaptations seem a too tad sleazy to those crowing PTC types especially since many still view fantasy genre programming as still essentially kids programming.

3. Violence is definitely not covert in Howard's stories. Beheading, disembowelment, mauling, mutilation, and simple bare knuckle beatings permeate his stories.  Any remotely faithful adaptation of Howard's stories would have to be on cable to avoid being censored into a shoving match for the same reasons that people might crow about the sexual content.

But all is not lost kiddies...

Now the success of the definitely mature audience oriented Game Of Thrones may open the door for the sort of faithful adaptation that Robert E. Howard's work cries out for.

All they need is someone willing to put some serious money down to get the ball rolling. 

Which brings me to...

CON #4: Investors maybe iffy about this sort of project because of the recent failures of the Conan and Solomon Kane big screen features. They will be naturally gun-shy about the whole thing, even though it's probably a better medium for the project.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #852: Hollywood Could Use Someone Like This Now...

Producer Bert Schneider has passed away at the age of 78.  Now many people may not know his name, or his face, but a lot of you know his films, because he was part of the generation that saved Hollywood from itself.

You see in the 1960s Hollywood was a sorry state.  Since the advent of television in the 1950s the entire industry had been flailing around trying to find something, anything, that could butts in theater seats.  They tried mega-budget epics loaded with lots of big name stars and special effects, they tried gimmicks like 3D, and for the most part they dropped more expensive bombs than Curtis LeMay.

Into this stumbled young Bert Schneider, the son of Abraham Schneider, a former President of Columbia Pictures, who had recently been expelled from Cornell, and rejected by the army. His father's status in the industry helped the then aimless Bert get a job at Columbia's Screen Gems TV division under the White Man's Affirmative Action Plan.

However, once he had his foot in the door he started to make a name for himself.  He joined forces with another young go-getter named Bob Rafelson, to form Raybert Productions, and put together a little show called The Monkees.

Not willing to rest on their laurels, or cash from The Monkees franchise, the partners branched out into feature films that attempted to break from the studio dominated norms and target audiences that had either been ignored or insulted by the majors. Their film Easy Rider became a break-out hit, and producer Stephen Blauner soon joined the team which was reformed as BBS Productions. 

BBS Productions then went on to produce such seminal films of the 1970s as Five Easy Pieces and The Last Picture Show before he dropped out of the movie business entirely in the early 1980s.

Now let's take a moment to look at how Hollywood history is repeating itself.

We're seeing dwindling audiences who are finding entertainment from other mediums, skyrocketing budgets, huge gaps forming in the movie market, gimmicks like 3D, over-paid and under-performing stars, and a stifling group-think controlling Hollywood to the point that anyone dwelling outside its permitted attitude range is viewed as either alien at best, or sub-human at worst.

Yep, history is repeating itself... except I don't see any Bert Schneider's coming around to shake things up from the inside like he did.  In fact, I see an industry that would rather risk seeing itself die out completely before changing how it operates.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Six Seasons & A Movie...

Had a really busy day today, and while I was being so busy the news sort of slowed to a crawl when it came to the sort of things I rant about, so here's a funny little video that may inspire you to support the currently benched NBC sitcom Community...

Monday, 12 December 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #851: Random Drippings From My Brain Pan


Garry Marshall's latest star saturated romantic comedy New Year's Eve is currently #1 at the box office.

Normally it would be a time for much rejoicing in the hallowed halls of Hollywood, but this time not so much.

You see, it's the #1 movie in what is turning out to be the most sluggish ticket sales in 3 years.  Yep, sales are right where they were during the middle of the financial meltdown of 2008, a time when people weren't keen on buying anything they couldn't eat.  It's sort of like being the king, but your kingdom is a heap of cow shit.

What does this development tell us?

LESSON #1: STAR POWER IS NO LONGER MEASURED IN MEGAWATTS.  Let's face it, movie stars don't really deliver the way they used to.  Yes, there once was a time when people went to see stars shine on screens, because the star's image appealed to them, or they just assumed a certain level of quality with said star.

That isn't true anymore.

LESSON #2: NOVELTY ONLY WORKS ONCE IF YOU CAN'T DELIVER A STORY TO GO WITH IT.  This film was a blatant attempt to cash in on the success of Marshall's last film 2010's Valentine's Day, which did pretty much the same thing, with everyone in Hollywood involved, and made over $200 million at the box office.

At the time it came out a movie starring literally everybody in Hollywood hasn't been seen since the days of Irwin Allen's disaster epics. To most viewers it was new and it was novel, and it sold tickets.

However, when they see New Year's Eve's promotional materials all they see is essentially the exact same movie, with a different date, a mostly new cast, and one of the kids from Glee, because the Garry Marshall thinks they'll really bring in the kids. What they didn't see was anything that promised a new story, so why bother.  

Novelty only works if it is constantly presenting something new. Try to do the same thing again, with nothing new added, and people won't see novelty, but a rehash, and they'll stay away.


I'm really beginning to like Daniel Craig, not just as an actor, or as James Bond, but for being a refreshing breath of honest air.  Something that's exceedingly rare in movie circles these days.

The inspiration for this bonhomie comes from an interview he did with Time Out magazine, promising that the next Bond film Skyfall, won't be as incoherent as Quantum of Solace.  Specifically:
TIME OUT: It seems that the script is sometimes an after-thought on huge productions.

DANIEL CRAIG: ‘Yes and you swear that you’ll never get involved with shit like that, and it happens. On “Quantum”, we were fucked. We had the bare bones of a script and then there was a writers’ strike and there was nothing we could do. We couldn’t employ a writer to finish it. I say to myself, “Never again”, but who knows? There was me trying to rewrite scenes – and a writer I am not.’
Thank you Mr. Craig.  Thank you for having the stones to admit that as an actor, it is your job to say the words, not create them. Thank you for not pulling a Jessica Alba and claiming that you improvise everything. Thank you, your honesty may finally mark the beginning of the end of the myth started by Marlon Brando & the method school that claims that actors do it all by themselves.


George Clooney and his partner Grant Heslov have optioned the movie rights to a book about the Smothers Brothers.

Now to those of you under the age of 40 the Smothers Brothers are Tom and Dick Smothers, a musical comedy duo with a career spanning 51 years. They came to prominence in the 1960s with a comedy and variety show that regularly tackled controversial topics like race relations, religion, and the Vietnam War, and were cancelled by the CBS network for their outspokenness.

The had a brief revival on TV in the late 1980s when CBS brought them back to fill time during a writer's strike. (Since they and their guests wrote their own material they didn't break any union rules)

Now while their story is interesting and tackles many things, I'm just not sure it's going to go very far as a feature film.

1.  Recreating classic comedy performances is extremely tricky. They're never as good as the fans remember the originals and they'll judge the rest of the movie pretty harshly over it.

2.  The Smother Brothers saga is really only of interest to baby boomers, and they don't go to the movies anymore. Anyone younger than that who isn't an amateur pop culture historian has probably never even heard of them. I don't see any teens or twenty somethings spending money to see people make jokes about Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson.

Now I'm not saying that they shouldn't do the story.  I'm just thinking that putting it on the big screen might be aiming a little high.  It might make a great TV movie, perhaps on HBO, but on the big screen, I think it will just fizzle out faster than you can say "Mother always liked you best."