Friday, 28 February 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1123: The Mystery Of The Missing Movies.

Read an interesting article from The Hollywood Reporter about Blumhouse Productions and their business model, which is behind the Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and other successful horror/thriller franchises.

To break it down to its simplest terms Blumhouse spends less than $5 $5,000,000.00 to make the film, and if they think the finished product can pull in a decent return at the box office they'll spend the $20-$30 million needed for a wide release. The rest, are, at least on paper, set to be released on Video On Demand, or home video.

Now there have been some complaints about how the productions are stripped down, no-frills affairs, and how the money is tight, and gets even tighter if your film doesn't get a release, because you're on a profit-share deal.

That's where things get a little strange.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, there are many films, some even made by big name filmmakers with big name actors that don't even get the straight-to-video release.

What do you think Dorothy?
My thoughts exactly.

It raises questions.

1. How bad do they think these films are that they don't even qualify for straight-to-video release, or even sale to cable television? You could release 90 minutes of the director farting on screen and still be better than at least half of the original movies on channels like SyFy.

2. A lot of these lost productions feature some pretty big names both behind and in front of the camera. They're attracted to the potential of some pretty hefty rewards for four-to-five weeks work at very little up-front. Will they keep coming if the business model becomes less of a business to them, and more of a crap-shoot over whether or not they will ever be paid? Better to go with the big studios where they can at least get some hefty up-front cash.

3. Does Blumhouse plan to ever release these films, even to VOD or cable television? If so, why the long waits, is the company hoping to "fix" them in editing, or via re-shoots? 

4. If not, then: How does Blumhouse expect to pay for the unreleased pictures over the long term? Sure, the films are cheap, and the ones that do hit it big have wide profit margins, but is that enough to cover the costs for films that never see the light of day, or generate any revenue.

Anyway, only time will provide any answers to these questions.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014


You had questions and I have answers!

Lots of sweet, sweet answers, some of them are even correct.

Let's get the ball rolling with a three questions from...
 Nate Winchester asked...

1) There is a story that Least I Could Do, a webcomic was going to be made into an animated series. Ryan Sohmer (the creator) had signed a deal with Tele Toon for 13 episodes of Least I Could Do, when suddenly notes from the higher-ups started coming in. Notes that said the show needed to "feel more Canadian," that the setting should be specifically in Toronto, that Issa should be an Inuit, that Mick should wear a Toronto Maple Leafs shirt and that Rayne and Noel should go out fishing instead of on walks. Why these suggestions?

The 2 word answer to that question is "Canadian Content" but that answer cries out for a third word, and that word is "Cinar."

I'll explain.

Back in ye olden days the Canadian TV networks, including our public broadcaster the CBC were dominated by imported American and British programming.

Canadian talent was going across the border to the greener pastures of Hollywood and Canadian producers were being starved out of business by the Canadian networks. 

The government had imposed rules on radio forcing them to play a certain amount of Canadian music because Canadian acts were hitting #1 in the USA and UK, but couldn't get played in their home country, and those rules, called CanCon for short, were expanded to television. That meant Canadian networks had to air shows made by, and starring Canadians, set in Canada.

It took a while before Canadian networks figured out how to make money making Canadian shows, but now they sell worldwide. 

Now the reason Teletoon was so militant towards the makers of The Least I Could Do, can all be put at the feet of a company called Cinar.

Cinar was a Montreal based company that became a huge player in children's programming. They used the CanCon rules to get their shows on Canadian channels, and then sold them internationally. Their filmography reads like a who's-who of hit shows of the 1980s and 1990s, and at their peak was raking in over a billion a year in revenue. In 2001 it was discovered that $122 million of the company's money was stashed away in the Bahamas without the board's approval, but that was just the beginning. 

It turns out that they were jerking around the CanCon rules that helped make the company a success. They were taking Canadian government grants and tax breaks meant to go toward hiring Canadians, using the money to hire American writers, and putting the names on their friends and relatives in the credits.

Naturally, all these shenanigans led to the ouster of its founders, the almost complete collapse of the company, and it's eventual takeover by the Halifax based DHX/Cookie Jar company.

Ever since then the powers that be have been hyper-militant about meeting CanCon rules. Especially with animated and children's programming which is a much more open business internationally.

2) I agree with you about the need for content in entertainment. I'd love to create things and give actors and artists and all a fair deal, but it looks like the culture has become so toxic, it's nigh impossible to get anything working without enough suspicion and lawyers to further the problem with creating shows/properties/etc. Is there any hope or solution to be found? (especially if you're not that rich)


3) I was reading through the b-masters cabal when Liz Kingsley said: "the MFTVMs [Made for TV Movies] of this era were, at worst, always professional works; the directors, the writers and the actors involved were the kind of solid, reliable types that just don’t seem to have a place in the entertainment industry any longer, more’s the pity. As a consequence, a remarkable number of these rapidly-shot, inexpensively produced little movies hold up astonishingly well; and some, indeed, are wonderful and memorable by any standard." Whatever happened to this professionalism and competency in Hollywood? Might we ever see it return?
It might, and if it does it will come because  of competition.

The golden age of the Made For TV Movie and miniseries came in the late 70s and early 1980s. They took advantage of television's wide talent pool both in front and behind the camera, and while some of these movies were forgettable, quite a few are still entertaining. (Dark Night Of The Scarecrow scared me shitless when I was a kid.)

The networks got out of the MFTVM and miniseries business in the early 1990s because the powers that be didn't see any future in it. Cable took up the slack, but too many viewed them as just filler than works of art in their own, so the bulk of them, that weren't HBO Emmy-Bait, were either extremely forgettable, and some were downright regrettable.

Now while lazy-cheap flicks like Shartnado gets lots of hype, they don't pull in the relative ratings as the big successful series and miniseries. The networks are also getting back into the miniseries racket, and TV movies can't be far behind.

The quality talent pool in television is growing too. Many good actors, writers, and directors are cutting their teeth on quality cable TV shows, and the channels that produce these shows will probably use original TV movies as a way of keeping this talent in the family when the shows are on hiatus.
 K asked...

Add to number 3 from above: There were a large number of NOT LARGE BUDGET movies made in the 70s and 80s that were quite good movies that people went to see. Movies staring Charles Bronsen and Clint Eastwood, for example. So what's the issue with going back to that model instead of the GIANT BLOCKBUSTER EVENT MOVIE? 

Maybe the failure of four or five summer blockbuster would return us to that time, is that so bad and why is Hollywood grousing over the possibility? 

Those kinds of mid-range movies are still being made, and many are still making money, but for the most part they are not being made by Hollywood. I'm talking about the action-thrillers of Liam Neeson and Jason Statham, who are usually financed by European and/or Asian backers, who then sell or license the films to Hollywood studios to distribute in North America. The studios then use them as filler  programming during slow periods between Winter Oscar campaigns and the Summer Blockbuster clusterfuck.

It's easy to forget about them because they don't break box office records, basically because THEY DON'T HAVE TO. Many of them are still profitable. However they can be easily lost in the hype over the latest $250+ million budget mega-blockbuster remake of a comic book adaptation of an old TV show from the 1960s.

The studios though think they can only do blockbusters because their own business practises make everything so damn expensive. They need to break records just to justify doing ANYTHING, and forget that the vast middle ground between Oscar bait and the mega-blockbuster can still be lucrative.

It's a shame.

I hope I answered your questions. If you have any more, let me know.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

R.I.P. Harold Ramis

Writer, director, and actor Harold Ramis passed away yesterday at the age of 69.

Ramis was never a movie "star" preferring to work either behind the camera, or as a supporting player, like his most famous role of Dr. Egon Spengler in the 1984 classic Ghostbusters.

If you spent any time of your life in the 1980s Ramis had revolutionized comedy. He crafted stories of underdogs trying to make their way in the world, battling forces seeking to keep them down, usually with hilarious results. 

My earliest memories of Ramis is not from his movies, but from seeing him on episodes of SCTV out of Toronto, and I think it would be a nice tribute to show some of his more famous bits from the show to remember him by.


This one might be thought of as tacky, but I think he would like it:

This one was my personal favourite:

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1122: This Time We'll Do It Right!

Okay, let's look at the PROS & CONS!!!


1. NBC is looking at the anticipation over a sequel miniseries to the Fox series 24, and saying "ME TOO!"

2. Heroes was a monster hit in its first season in 2006, and was a major "water cooler" show.


1. The Fox series 24 was retired the show still had fans who wanted to see more of Jack and Chloe killing terrorists.

2. When Heroes was cancelled it had become synonymous with how the major networks screw up not only serialized dramas, but science-fiction/fantasy premises.

3. The bulk of the show's initial audience had given up on the show somewhere in the second season, but since NBC was struggling for any viewers at the time, the show lasted 4 seasons of diminishing returns. The only return that wasn't diminishing was the resentment viewers had at the show for getting their hopes up and wasting their time.

In a related story, here's NBC's new logo...

If you have any pop culture and business questions that you want either answered, or faked, CLICK HERE and ASK ME ANYTHING!!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014


If you have a pop culture/business question, just leave it in the comments and I will answer it some time next week when I have enough questions.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Discount Bin Film Club: Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete Series.

Today, I'm going to leave my blustery, windswept, snow-buried, and frigid home and take us all on a journey to a magical place that seems perpetually in late Spring or early Summer, where all of life's problems can be solved by a very brainy butler.

I'm talking about the world of Jeeves & Wooster, the early 1990s TV series starring Stephen Fry as Jeeves the always prepared personal "gentlemen's gentleman" of Hugh Laurie's Bertie Wooster.

The characters were created by British author and playwright P.G. Wodehouse in a long running series of novels, short stories, and plays from 1915 until Wodehouse's death in 1975.

Bertram Wilberforce "Bertie" Wooster is a young aristocrat who is long on money but short on brains. He has a tendency to get himself into jams, very complicated jams, that could get himself jailed, killed, injured, or worse, married.

Luckily Bertie has Jeeves as his personal valet or "gentlemen's gentleman." He tends to Bertie's every need, and Bertie always needs some brains which Jeeves has in abundance.

Now the key to Bertie being such an endearing character instead of just annoying is that he never acts out of malice. Bertie never intends harm to anyone, in fact, he's always trying to help people, and it's these attempts to be helpful which is always getting him into jams that only Jeeves can get him out of.

The performances of Fry and Laurie are flawless. Fry plays Jeeves as if he's more than a servant to Wooster, but as Wooster's hyper-intellectual guardian with a Machiavellian streak. Hugh Laurie, who had been setting the standard for playing upper-class twits since the early 1980s, captures Bertie's seeming innocence, his desire to do good, and his lack of intellectual gravity. Only a smart actor can play so dumb and get away with it.

However, there's a third star to this series, and that's writer Clive Exton. While Exton was unable to do 100% faithful adaptations of Wodehouse's books and stories, he masterfully captured the characters, plots, and even linguistic nuances that made Wodehouse a genre onto himself.

Where the series suffers, even if only a tiny bit, is in the supporting cast, in the fact that most recurring characters end up being played by 2-4 different actors over the course of the series 4 season run.  Which can be jarring if you're binge watching the series. Some are great, like the original Gussy Fink-Nottle, and the third Madeleine Bassett, some are weak, like the second Gussy, but the rest range from adequate to very good.

The supporting cast are extremely important, because it's the impositions they constantly put on Bertie are what drives the plots. Some stand-out characters are Tuppy Glossop and his schemes to make it in business without actually working, Gussy Fink-Nottle, the newt enthusiast, his space-cadet on/off fiancee Madeleine Bassett, the sociopathic Stephanie "Stiffy" Byng, and the wannabe dictator Roderick Spode, leader of the Black Shorts.

Spode is the closest thing to an overt "political" statement in Wodehouse's work. He's a parody of British fascist leader Oswald Moseley whose blend of racist nationalism and socialism offended Wodehouse's Tory sensibilities. Wodehouse makes him a loud, obnoxious, and dimwitted bully who espouses pseudo-scientific theories ranging from the superiority of British knees, to turning over whole counties in England to the farming of turnips. His personal Kryptonite is the word "Eulalie" a secret so horrifying that it turns him into a cowering bowl of jelly at its mere mention. Wodehouse wants him to be seen as a thuggish buffoon, and Exton masterfully obliges.

Exton also captures Wodehouse's notion that the British upper class was at heart a matriarchy. Sure, primogeniture made sure that the guys with the primo-genitals inherited the titles, but all these supposedly elite men, are all operating under the power, or at the mercy of powerful women. Bertie is constantly being bullied by his Aunts Agatha and Dahlia, as well as being forced in and out of engagements and other entanglements by various young women masterfully manipulating men's emotions, and social conventions to get their way.

The big tell for this is The Drones Club, the social centre for Bertie and his upper-class chums. It's symbol/mascot is a male bee, which is fundamentally a mindless creature evolved solely for mating and serving commanding females.

Design wise the show is top notch. Bertie's London and New York apartments are elegant and tasteful art-deco fantasies. The location work is also top-notch, especially when Bertie's off to someone's "country house" for a weekend of comic hijinks, one place, called Totleigh Towers in the series may seem familiar to TV viewers.
Now the biggest criticism of the comedy is that it's considered "old fashioned" and "not edgy enough." Yet it's still funny, and one story, about Bertie being kidnapped by a vengeful American millionaire, would probably not be made today, since it involves over 20 idiots running around in blackface and a grown man punching a nine year old boy being played for laughs.

The DVDs themselves were released by A&E in 2009, and I wish that they had been remastered. The picture can be grainy at times, and the sound a tad tinny on occasion, but you get used to it very quickly. I would prefer a remastered Blu-Ray version, with loads of extra features, but when it comes to such quality entertainment I'm willing to settle.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1121: Diversity & The Soft Bigotry Of Hollywood

Canadian actress Ellen Page has come out as gay.  It's a brave move, finally putting an end to speculation that's dogged her since her Hollywood career exploded with her Oscar nominated role in Juno, it gives hope to gay kids who feel like outcasts, and as we speak Hollywood is already working out how they're going to  pigeonhole her career into oblivion.

You see, Hollywood has a problem with diversity. They're the first to demand it from others, or use it as a cudgel to smack down people they don't like, but they are the last people to actually practise it in their own house.

Now it's not because Hollywood is a den of racism, sexism, and homophobia. Far from it, in fact, they'll be the first to tell you that they are the vanguard of openness and that it's the outside world that seething with hatred.

Hollywood believes that it must teach the world how to be as open-minded as they are.

And that's where the trouble begins.

You see, when you're a member of a "minority" in Hollywood's eyes you stop being just an actor, or even a human being, you become a REPRESENTATION.

When Hollywood brands you as a "Representation" it means that every role you play must represent the entirety of the minority/community/demographic you are deemed to represent. Also, the characters played by these representations cannot dare reflect negatively on any facet of the community the representation is supposed to represent.

This can become a death sentence to an actor's career, since the point of being an actor is playing a diversity of roles in a diversity of situations. This must include being allowed to play characters who may not be perfect role models or representations.

But show Hollywood a character that might be a great role, but has some negative trait they don't want branded onto an entire community, they just give the part to the straight white guy.  This is why all villains these days seem to be Russians played by British actors. There isn't a Russian activist group, and British actors like the easy work.

The craziest part is that Hollywood doesn't even know they're doing this. They honestly believe their own hype. If they say they're doing wonders for diversity, then they must actually be doing wonders for diversity, they put a black guy in a Robin Hood movie, that's gotta count for something.

It's delusional, but Hollywood is a realm of delusion.

But it's not all lost.

A form of organic diversity is arising in genre filmmaking, where actors of a variety of races, religions, and orientations can be characters that are seen as just characters instead of representations. Also some actors successfully fight Hollywood's subconscious pigeonholing and build careers based on their own talents.

I hope that's what happens to Ellen Page, she's a  very talented actress, with natural comedic skills, and deserves to be a real actress instead of a representation.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Indie Trailer Spotlight: Jodorowsky's Dune

Sony Classics is releasing a documentary about the making of Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune, considered one of the most influential films never made.

Long story short, Jodorowsky got his hands on the movie rights to Frank Herbert's epic sci-fi bestseller Dune. He hired French comics artist Moebius, and Swiss Artist HR Giger to design the film, while American Dan O'Bannion was to work on the special effects.

The project kept getting bigger and bigger, and more ambitious, but everything came to a screeching halt, allegedly when the project couldn't land an American distributor. (They may have been turned off by Jodorowsky's trippy surrealistic films like El Topo and Holy Mountain.)

Anywhoo, the people working on Dune went on to make things like Alien, Blade Runner, and their influence can still be seen in movies to this day.

Personally, I saw some of Jodorowsky's work in film school, and while visually he might have created something impressive, I'm not sure if he was able to pull off the complex narrative in a coherent, or at least understandable fashion.

Anyway, the full story should be interesting to see and hear.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1120: My Robocop Confession & Other Stuff.


There's a Robocop remake coming out and folks are debating whether or not it's sacrilege or just heresy, and my reaction to all that hullaballoo is a big fat "Feh."

You see, I've always felt the original Robocop was overrated.

The film didn't have characters as much as caricatures, the satire was obvious and ham-fisted, saying more about director Paul Verhoven's prejudices than about society in general. Also the violence and sexual content seemed exaggerated or inserted into the story just to get an "R" rating and hence be the cool kid on the action movie block. It did have some good performances from the likes of Peter Weller and Kurtwood Smith, but I was otherwise left cold by the film.

I am of the generation that thought the original Robocop was so bad-ass, but I will admit to be the odd man out about that movie. Folks saw the botched sequels and TV series as aberrations ruining the franchise, but I saw them as the inevitable result of thin source material.


This is the DC Comics super villain The Penguin.

Notice something?

Another thin actor stealing the role of a portly character.


Damn Hollywood bastards!



BBC America has green-lit the series Nottingham, a twist on the Robin Hood legend where Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham are actually THE SAME PERSON.


I'd like to see a version where the Sheriff is trying to do real police work but is constantly cop-blocked by the corruption of the greedy Prince John, and the banditry of an obnoxious Robin Hood. Every time he makes a legitimate arrest the Prince either frees them after taking a bribe, or Robin Hood busts them out because he mistakenly thinks they're being oppressed. Then end the series with the Sheriff giving up, stealing the treasury, and fleeing to Italy with Maid Marian.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1119: Dear Shia.


Dear Shia.

This is allegedly part of your never ending campaign to dodge Internet mockery, but I find that hard to believe since it leaves you open to even more mockery like this:

Or this…

But I'd like to point that the whole thing is a pretty blatant rip-off of...

Murray Langton, AKA the Unknown Comic.

Poor Shia, you're just doomed to plagiarize no matter what post-modern-meta-horseshit you try to pull off.

I would pity you if you weren't acting like a spoiled little brat shocked to discover that there's a world outside of Hollywood.


-Furious D.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1118: Farewell Jay Leno.

Jay Leno has left his post as host of NBC's venerable Tonight Show a post he's held since 1992, breaking only to be ousted by NBC in 2009 for Conan O'Brien and de-ousted in 2010.  I could be one of those people who like to pile on Jay Leno for his blandness, his treatment of Conan, and other things, including the time he stole my joke.

You may recall that in December 2008 an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at then US President George W. Bush. That day I composed a joke about it, about how the thrower was just hired as a pundit at MSNBC, and sent it to a comedian in Los Angeles who paid me $50 for it. The next day he used it in a web video, and a day or two after that I get a call from my parents that the joke had just been used by Leno on The Tonight Show.

Where's my money Jay?

But enough about my trauma, let's talk about the decline of the late-night talk show in general.

Since the retirement of Johnny Carson in 1992 the 11:30 PM slot has been dominated by Jay Leno on NBC and David Letterman on CBS. Leno pursued the middle of the road of Middle America, while Letterman pursued the critics. This meant that Leno usually got the ratings, such as they were, while Letterman got the praise and prizes.

There's a whole sub-genre about the Leno-Letterman battle for supremacy, so I won't go too deep into that. What I will say is that their feud was like seeing two men fight for the bridge of a sinking ship.

You see back when Carson was the king of late night, he was responsible for 25% of NBC's revenues. Think about that, 1 frigging show, making 25% of a major network's revenues. Single-handedly he became the network's profit margin, keeping NBC afloat when their prime-time ratings were less than prime.

The Tonight Show was also a pop culture touchstone. A good performance on The Tonight Show could turn a complete unknown into a major star, literally overnight. People trusted Johnny Carson and company that the guests would be worth their time whether they heard of them or not.

My how things have changed.

Nowadays you can't get on any late-night talk show unless you're already a major star. Leno struck me as uninterested in his guests while Letterman struck as always trying to show how much better he is than his guests, and to outlive Leno on air. Both attitudes failed to turn my crank, so I basically tuned out of Late Night talk shows all together.

I am not alone. Ratings for both shows slipped to a fraction of what Carson used to get all on his own. Their influence waned, and now they seem to exist solely because they have already been their for so long, they don't know what else to do with the time-slot.

When was the last time a comedian or performer really made their name by appearing on either Leno or Letterman?

I can't remember, can you?

Anyway, I'm not going to make any predictions about how Jimmy Fallon will do behind the desk. But I can't really see him reversing the decline. Aging viewers who stuck with The Tonight Show because it was The Tonight Show might finally tune out, and the younger viewers are busy doing and watching other things at that time.

Since I'm an old coot living in an odd time zone, I'll be in bed, sometimes even asleep.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1117: Multiple Stuff...


You've no doubt heard that Phillip Seymour Hoffman, one of Hollywood's best character actors has passed away, and word is coming down that it was from a drug overdose.  I don't have to explain what a great actor he was, there's a whole Wikipedia page listing his awards and nominations.

He was one of a handful of performers in Hollywood who actually looked and acted like the characters they played were real people in a real world, no matter how unreal the on-screen situation was.

That's what makes his loss so saddening.

The fact that he most likely died of a heroin overdose is what makes his loss so enraging. 

It's sickening to hear of an actor who was always so original in his work to die from a celebrity cliche.

Reports are saying that he had been clean for twenty years, but had recently relapsed, and gone into a heroin induced death spiral. Heroin is especially pernicious because it induces a chemically induced selfishness in the addict. They lose all interest in family, friends, work, and life in general, and become single-mindedly dedicated to getting more heroin.

We'll never know exactly what sparked his initial addiction or his lethal relapse. There is no scan for the state of the human soul. So I won't speculate, I will just say that I hate to see such a disaster happen yet again.

If you are using heroin: Get help.

If you are thinking of starting to use heroin: Don't.

Too many have died for an illusion.


A tip of my jaunty sombrero to reader and twitter follower @MediaWarrior for linking me to this video review of some of the questionable decisions being made by DC Comics. It's nice to see someone agree with me on many points, though I must admit that I deliver them differently.


I don't have an opinion on the project, I just needed a cheap excuse to post her picture to cheer me up after two stories about things that made me sad and angry.
Okay, much better.