Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1202: YOU ASKED FOR IT!

I asked for questions, and you hath delivered.  So let's can the palaver and get right down to business!

Anonymous, AKA Dirty Dingus MacGee asked:
Indulge my comic book nerdery by answering the following pressing questions:
1) Of the announced comic book movies, which one (not involving the word Avengers) seems like the biggest hit? The biggest flop?

I won't say if any specific movie will flop, but I do have some concerns, specifically with how DC/Warner Bros. is handling their movie franchises.

DC is having some success on television. The Flash and Arrow are doing great business on the CW, Gotham has taken off at Fox, and even the weakest player Constantine is a cult hit that's growing in popularity in a manner reminiscent of The X-Files back in the 1990s. There's also some good buzz about the upcoming Supergirl and Krypton shows.

So you have to ask: Why are they treating television as if it doesn't count?

They have a successful Flash TV series with a star the audience has taken a shine to, but then DC/WB went out of their way to try to steal that show's thunder by announcing that the movies will feature a different Flash, a different storyline, and much bigger budgets.

That sounds like a recipe for trouble. Franchise fans are loyal, but usually to the franchise that brung them. They don't want the hassle of conflicting visions, casts, and story lines cluttering up an already cluttered and confusing milieu.

Which might hurt some of the DC movies at the box since many fans might just want to stick with the guy they know best.
2) Speaking of flops: 
A) precisely how bad is the Fantastic Four reboot gonna suck? 
B) What possessed Fox to maul this property so utterly?
A) The reboot is probably going to suck bad, going by the fact that the two previous Fantastic Four movies left fans extremely dissatisfied in the story and character department with their constant attempts to make them somehow relevant.

B) Spite. Marvel wants them back and is hoping to force Fox's hand by cancelling the comic, and Fox is probably trying to do a version of the same thing back to Marvel, by giving them a movie franchise that repels audiences.
3) Of the significant comic book properties NOT in the pipeline (there may be one or two), which one should be getting much more attention from Hollywood?
That's hard to say, since so many are getting attention, including ones that probably shouldn't. (I'm looking at you Lobo)
4) DC is rolling out its Cinematic Universe pretty much all at once in Batman v. Superman. You feeling that approach, or is it a recipe for disaster?
DC's mismanagement has put it in a situation where they have to play catch up with Marvel. That reeks of desperation, and desperation can turn off audiences. However, I won't attempt to predict any specific outcomes.

 ILDC asked...
If any of you readers are too lazy to click the link I'll give you a sum up.

Someone, possibly the North Koreans, hacked the computer systems of Sony Entertainment, reportedly in revenge for the upcoming comedy The Interview, that has offended leader Kim Jong Un.

Among the death threats and leaked celebrity SSNs are a bunch of internal Sony communications expressing a lot of dissatisfaction with how the company is being run. Chiefly how they're missing out on developing new and lucrative properties like Lionsgate's The Hunger Games, to keep peddling stars and properties the corporation thinks are safe, but are a world of diminishing, if not crumbling returns, like the Adam Sandler movies.

What these grumbles reveal is that Sony/Columbia is a lot like the other studios, only more so. They're too scared to take a comparatively small risk on a best-selling YA series, but will confidently dump hundreds of millions of dollars on franchises and stars who are well past their "Best Before" date because past track records declare them "safe."

Even when they do sell a lot of tickets, the budgets are so huge, and the "dollar 1" deals so draining, many of the films still lose a fortune that not even home video and TV sales can cover the losses.

That ain't healthy.

But there is a solution. Just put someone in charge of Sony/Columbia with enough power to reform everything from the top down. 
2. What did you think of the new Star Wars trailer? Does the movie look like it could be yet another major disappointment?
The trailer looks slick, is loaded with lots of fan-service, and that's the problem I have with it.

New style stormtrooper helmets, the Millennium Falcon, the Swiss Army Lightsaber, etc…etc… but no hints about the story going into any new and creative direction.

So far we've had a lot of rumours about the story, and since it's a JJ Abrams production, the ones they deny will be true, and they don't bode well with me. The biggest being that Palpatine the Big Bad of the last two trilogies will return. Hence making the entire saga of Anakin/Vader's rise, fall, and redemption completely meaningless emotionally.

It's like bringing back Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness. At first fans pissed themselves with glee at how cool that would be, especially with him being played by geek-hunk Benedict Cumberbatch.

Then they saw the movie and had a moment to think about it, and realized how all the movie did was pull their strings with what sounded like cool premises, but those premises had the life sucked out of them by the nature of the new franchise. In the original Kirk and Khan had such an intense relationship that it made Wrath of Khan dramatic, even though they had no scenes together. Into Darkness gave them lots of scenes together, but none of the intensity in the relationship.

That left everyone deeply unsatisfied, and while the box office was strong, the production/marketing budgets were huge, and the profits thin, if not non-existent. Which is probably why they're flailing around just trying to find someone to direct the 3rd film.

I just fear that Abrams will do the same thing to Star Wars.
3. Why does Bill Cosby right now seem more unredeemable than Roman Polanski and Woody Allen? I would say it's due to the shock factor alone, but the allegations aren't exactly anything new; they just became common knowledge.
Shock factor, hypocrisy on Cosby's part since he's been lecturing many in the black community on education and sexual responsibility. Things Polanski and Allen never did.
4. Have you been aware of the wage-fixing scandal seemingly every major feature animation and visual effects studio is involved with? Does it sound like something they will keep getting away with?
Hollywood history is littered with the corpses of schemes designed to keep money out of the hands of the people who earned it. It's why Hollywood has unions, and deals where anyone with the slightest amount of clout tries to screw as much money as they can up front because they know they're going to get screwed later.

The problem is that while the costs of the technological means of production have more or less collapsed, the cost of actually making a Hollywood movie have an inflation rate not seen outside of Weimar Germany. 

So in the short run they will get away with it, but in the long run, they're only making their own financial problems get worse and worse.
5. Creatively speaking, is Pixar still a Hollywood savior?
No one company can or will save an industry and Pixar's insistence on making sequels and spinoffs to Cars shows years before even thinking of one for The Incredibles that even they are not perfect.
6. What are the chances of DreamWorks Animation getting sold at this time, and under Katzenberg's demands?

DWA has had hits, and misses, but even their hits, by trying to be hip, become very dated very quickly. That means their library, their biggest asset, is probably not worth as much as Katzenberg thinks, especially in this economy.
7. Can you give a detailed history of why Canadian companies like DHX Media are able to make acquisitions at such a fast pace?
For those of you who don't know Decode Halifax Media or DHX Media is a big and growing company that's coming to dominate animated television. In fact the odds are pretty good that if the cartoon you're watching isn't made by Disney or Warner Bros. it was made by one of DHX's subsidiaries.

DHX's founders Michael Donovan and Charles Bishop were the biggest names in TV production in Nova Scotia in the 1980s and 1990s. Donovan and his brother Paul founded Salter Street Films and while they struggled in feature films, they enjoyed great success in TV. The sci-fi series The Lexx became a huge cult hit in Europe and Asia and the political comedy series This Hour Has 22 Minutes became a Canadian TV institution. 

This led to them getting the license for IFC Canada, which attracted the attention of Canuck media-giant Alliance-Atlantis who bought out Salter Street for big money.

Alliance-Atlantis then promptly gutted the Salter Street operation, because all they wanted was the IFC Canada license. (Ironically this all happened the day after I was offered a job at IFC Canada doing video-commentaries about the film business, an offer that was rescinded since the guy who made it was fired)

Alliance-Atlantis then went on to gut themselves, but Michael Donovan and produce Charles Bishop went on to found Halifax Film that took over producing 22 Minutes, and they merged with kids-show producer Decode Entertainment to become DHX.

DHX's biggest early win was Cinar. Cinar had a string of wildly lucrative kid's shows like Caillou, but had self-destructed when the management sank themselves in a financial scandal. That meant that very valuable properties were available cheap to whoever was willing and able to sort out the mess.

They pulled it off and became a powerhouse in global animation. After that they started absorbing other small companies, adding their properties to their own, and I believe they even own a chunk of the Teletubbies now, as well as buying several family oriented TV channels from the then struggling Astral Media.

So I guess their secret is to look for good properties with weak or overwhelmed management and use their growing bulk to bring them into the fold. Plus they are producing content, which all those channels and other outlets are literally starving for.
8. Do you think Ridley Scott could have actually had a non-whitewashed cast in Exodus: Gods and Kings?
Hollywood loves to preach diversity, but when it comes to practicing diversity they are still deeply mired in tokenism. That means that the gesture or the appearance of diversity is more important than actually telling really diverse stories with diverse characters.

As for the controversy over the racial make-up of Exodus, it reminds me of a debate in the late 1980s and early 1990s about whether or not Cleopatra was black because Egypt is in Africa.

Turns out Cleopatra wasn't even Egyptian, the Ptolemaic family being Macedonian Greeks who adopted the Egyptian royal practise of extreme inbreeding.

But people have their attitudes, prejudices, and agendas over what the ancient world looked like, and will not truck any difference. Rupert Murdoch got a lot of shit for offering an opinion and he is old enough to have been there.
9. Are sequels indeed inevitable in today's Hollywood, both cash grabs and passion projects?
They always have been, always will be.
10. Are you sick of Frozen?
Not really, but then again, I don't live in a house with any pre-teen girls, so I'm not bombarded with Idina Menzel's Adele Dazzeem's rendition of Let it go. Though I can understand how one can get sick of a kid's franchise. I was once forced to endure an hour of Caillou while babysitting and by the end of it I was ready to commit murder, so I can sympathize.
11. Any movies you're personally looking forward to?
Not really.

Nothing's giving me that precious chill down the back of my neck that I used to get when I was kid that pretty much told me that a beloved blockbuster was coming.

 Nate Winchester asked...
Ok, my question is: Why does Hollywood seem to HATE its audience? 
I don't mean just the general loathing that maybe some usual artists feel, I mean outright hatred. 
The most common example I can think of and see is where fans really want something (DVD release of a show/movie for example, or maybe rights to make something like new episodes), and the holder of whatever property could make money, but they will not let the fans have it, even while the the person/studio/whatever is getting NO money off just sitting on whatever the fans want. 
Is there any better example that you can think of how little Hollywood cares about money?

I see what you're getting at.

That's because in many cases in Hollywood they value control over profit. It doesn't matter if some newcomer could turn a moribund property and turn it into a cash-cow, the owner is more likely to say no simply because they don't want to relinquish control because someone else might take credit for a success.

Then there's the dog's breakfast of rights holders which pop up in independently financed productions, and even some studio productions. That means that everyone who has a stake in a property has to give the thumbs up unanimously. If there's the slightest unpleasantness between stakeholders, you can forget about it. People have turned out big payoffs if it meant that someone they hated lost money too.

Spite is mighty.

I hope I answered everyone's questions, and if you have more, ask away.


  1. Your reaction to Universal bragging about its most profitable year ever, all without tentpoles?

  2. That's going to be the topic of a blog post.