“Star Wars: Episode VII” has a good shot at joining “Avatar” and “Titanic” in hitting $2 billion at the worldwide box office, industry analysts said Tuesday.
“The casting for this new film is perfect from a commercial standpoint,” BoxOffice.com Vice President and Senior Analyst Phil Contrino told TheWrap.
Disney, Lucasfilm and director J.J. Abrams on Tuesday said that the stars of the original film — Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher — will be joined by newcomers Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Max von Sydow.
“Bringing back the original cast is brilliant, because it cements the link with the franchise's incredible legacy, and so is going without A-list actors in the new roles, because it keeps the focus on the brand,” Contrino said.
Even if hardcore fans of the franchise aren't totally happy with the casting picks, the excitement surrounding them could help build momentum — which is already at fever pitch.
“It's a time-honored tradition for fans of that series to complain about George Lucas and any number of other things surrounding the franchise — and then they go to see the movies five times,” Contrino said.
James Cameron's “Titanic” and “Avatar” are the highest-grossing movies ever at the worldwide box office. The romantic sea disaster epic brought in $2.1 billion in 1997, a record that stood until the futuristic 3D sci-fi saga rolled up a staggering $2.7 billion in 2009.
Disney, which was radio silent on Tuesday, will want to manage expectations for “Episode VII.” And it's worth noting that forecasting box-office returns on a movie more than a year-and-a-half-ahead of its release involves more speculation than data analysis.
Wall Street analysts at this point aren't as bullish; last summer, Credit Suisse's Michael Senn predicted $1.2 billion in box office for “Episode VII. This week, Cowan & Co. projected $1.2 billion and FBR Capital Markets said it would take in $700 million domestically — and net $1 billion overseas.
Nonetheless, industry analysts are convinced that the sequel will be one for the record books.
Keeping the focus on the brand is just what Disney needs to do if they want “Star Wars: Episode VII” to hit record heights, agreed Rentrak Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
“We're talking about what, for many people, is the biggest movie brand in their lifetimes, one that evokes all sorts of memories, imagery — and box-office expectations,” he said.
Since “A New Hope” opened in 1977, the six previous “Star Wars” movies and their re-releases have brought in more than $4.5 billion — but no film in the series has hit the $1 billion mark. That's not surprising; “Titanic” is the only movie released before 2009 on the Top 10 list. The highest-grossing entry in the “Star Wars” series remains “Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” which took in $983 million globally in 1999.
“It clearly has a built-in audience, but how the movie is received will make a difference,” Contrino said. “If it's really good, some people are going to go see it several times. If it's not, that won't happen.”
The box office is a high-profile piece of the franchise's overall value, but it's far from being the only factor. With returns from DVDs, books and toy sales factored in, the series has generated more than $27 billion in revenue, according to the research institute Statistic Brain.
Even by “Star Wars” standards, the anticipation around “Episode VII” is unprecedented, Dergarabedian said.
“A few years ago, people thought they'd never see a new ‘Star Wars’ movie, much less a full-fledged franchise,” he said. Disney chairman Robert Iger has said the studio is planning on several more “Stars Wars” movies in the coming years.
The North American release date for “Episode VII” — Dec. 18, 2015 — is the same date that “Avatar” opened on five years ago.
“That's significant, and ideal,” Contrino said. “It will surely have a huge opening, but it will also have the whole month of January to keep on playing. I can't imagine a lot of other studios are going to get in its way.”
See video: ‘Star Wars': The Original Auditions (Video)
That's a formula “Avatar” followed to its record haul, establishing new standards for the highest-grossing third-through-seventh weekends domestically. And after just 41 days in release, “Avatar” had established new records in 24 foreign markets.
“With the incredible growth of the foreign markets, I think the sky is the limit this time around,” said Contrino.
“Phantom Menace” is the biggest earning film of franchise overseas with $552 million, which represented roughly 56 percent of its worldwide haul. Largely due to the explosive growth of the foreign markets, today's biggest blockbusters typically bring in roughly 70 percent of their grosses from overseas.
It was widely reported yesterday that Disney bans the word "God" from being used in its animated films and accompanying song lyrics.
The initial reports came from an NPR interview with Oscar-winning "Frozen" songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, but the married couple say their quotes about "religious things" being "one of the only places you have to draw the line at Disney" were completely misconstrued.
We spoke exclusively with the songwriters at Tuesday night's Time 100 gala, where the duo were honored as one of the magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World."
When asked about the ban, Kristen Anderson-Lopez clarified, "That is completely misconstrued. We were talking about one instance where we were using the word 'God' in vain."
Her husband Robert explained the specific instance in question was about "using the Lord's name in vain," with a song line that would have been: "Couldn't keep it in, God knows I tried."
Kristen elaborated, "That's what we were going to do and our collaborators felt that could be construed as using the Lord's name in vain, so we didn't put it in the movie."
"But Disney does not have a policy of not using the word 'God' at all," she assures.
In fact, the couple say there are no words or topics that are off limits at Disney. They just felt it was better to nix the one line.
Many had speculated that Disney was extra cautious with the songwriters because Robert was co-writer of the crass, religious satire Broadway hit, "Book of Mormon."
But Robert previously assured NPR, "I don't think Disney has any problem with employing people who have, you know, done off-color stuff in the past."
"Book of Mormon" co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone — who wrote the couple's Time profile— explained why their friends' song "Let It Go" was so influential this year: "It’s catchy and familiar and yet new. It’s that perfect mix where a songwriter can get a song you’ve never heard before stuck in your head in 30 seconds."
As for their spot on the elite Time magazine list, the couple says, "The fact that we're even on this list made us laugh really hard, we wrote songs for a Disney princess movie!"
"Frozen" has grossed more than $1 billion worldwide and is the highest-grossing animated film of all time.
The political crisis in the Ukraine could be disastrous for the U.S. film industry, which is already feeling the financial fallout from the bloody fissure in the former Soviet republic.
Hollywood producers, financiers and sales executives told TheWrap they expect to lose millions from the ongoing turmoil, which is heightening tensions between the U.S. and Russia weeks before the annual Cannes film market.
The West has accused Russia of fomenting discord, and distributors, fearful of sanctions and general economic unrest, are offering 30 to 60 percent less for the rights to American movies.
Some Russian distributors are attempting to renegotiate past deals, according to IM Global CEO Stuart Ford, while others can't even buy movies if they want to. This has everyone concerned headed into Cannes, one of the most important film markets in the world.
“We were in negotiations with the two largest Russian distribution companies, and they both asked us to put everything on hold because of directives they received,” Richard Rionda, CEO of Hannibal Pictures, told TheWrap.
Russia is an important market to Hollywood, while the Ukraine is a smaller one. On Monday, the U.S. government announced sanctions against seven top Russian officials with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The European Union is also contemplating sanctions against Russia.
Potential financial impediments create uncertainty, uncertainty breeds caution and cautious buyers pay less to mitigate risk.
“It's disastrous,” Lisa Wilson, co-founder of the Solution Entertainment Group, told TheWrap. “There's one distributor who is actually based in the Ukraine, and the others are not based in the Ukraine. But we've been getting, ‘I can't pay it because of the war.'”
The political crisis has destabilized an already flagging Russian economy. The country was suffering from stagflation, a mix of stagnant growth and high inflation, and the various new pressures have prompted ratings agencies to cut the value of Russia's debt, hurt its stock market and decreased the value of its currency. Money is flying out of the country, which stands on the brink of recession.
“The economy in Russia is not as strong as everyone thinks it is,” producer Avi Lerner told TheWrap. “It's based on a very small percentage of oligarchs and very rich people. Most people have no money. That's a problem.”
Lerner said he was making 30 percent less money from his deals in Russia, but, he insisted, the deals will not stop. Russian distributors are still interested in movies, they just won't pay as much.
“The big issue is that because of the situation in the Ukraine, the Russian government may ban foreign movies as retaliation for the many sanctions they will be facing,” Rionda said. “Outside of that, it's pretty clear people are eager to secure additional films for their line-up.”
DreamWorks Animation announced Tuesday that it will take a writedown on its recent release, "Mr. Peabody & Sherman."
It’s the studio’s latest animated feature they’ve had to take a writedown on after underperformances on 2012's "Rise of the Guardians" and last summer's underwhelming "Turbo." That accounts for three of DWA's last 4 animated pictures.
During the company's Q1 earnings call, CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg didn't shy away from addressing the studio's recent failures. He outright acknowledged them saying his number one priority is getting DWA's feature film business back on track.
Here's four ways DreamWorks Animation plans to turn it around.
1. Cut production costs on movies
DreamWorks Animation’s last four titles have cost an estimated average of $140 million each.
Starting in November, Chief Operating Officer Ann Daly says the studio’s average movie will cost $125 million or less to produce. The first feature release under this new structure will be “Home,” a film about aliens invading Earth, that will feature the voice talents of Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”), Rihanna, and Jennifer Lopez.
“Our objective is to ensure that our box-office successes will be more lucrative," says Daly. "And in the case where a film performs below expectations that it can still be profitable.”
2. More sequels and fewer movie releases
Rather than rely on more risky original pictures, DWA will start rolling out more sequels to its most lucrative franchises. So expect to see more “Madagascar,” more dragons, and, yes, more “Shrek” spin-off movies.
The upcoming movie slate includes “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” How to Train Your Dragon 3,” “Penguins in Madagascar,” “Kung Fu Panda 3,” a sequel to 2013’s “The Croods” and another to Shrek character “Puss in Boots.”
Katzenberg said the studio needs to be “more flexible” with the number of movies it releases in a given year.
Daly says the studio plans to average one franchise film every year through 2018.
3. More efficient marketing
Katzenberg says he wants to be executing strong marketing for "event movies" as far as 18 months before their release in order to ensure their releases "standout to audiences as must-see theatrical experiences.”
4. Original movie ideas will go through the wringer to make sure they’re worth releasing
“Movies that are not sequels, we are – I think really triple or looking at those to make sure that they are big concepts and highly marketable concepts."
"So, even an original movie like 'Boo,' which is coming next summer is a ghost movie. It’s a flat-out comedy with Seth Rogen, Melissa McCarthy, Bill Murray, big visual fun kind of Ghostbusters ideas, it’s a little early, its more than 15 months out from release in it. But it feels like a very big idea. It feels like a very marketable idea, it’s got very strong elements to it.
"When we’re looking at original movies they actually need to check-off a lot more boxes than they’ve had to in the past.”
In honor of yesterday's big official casting of "Star Wars: Episode VII," the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (the same place that gives out the Academy Awards) released some great photos from a long time ago (1976) far, far away (Hollywood).
The photos are of casting announcements and news from various press outlets regarding the original 1977 "Star Wars," better known now as "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope."
Check them out below:
Here is an early announcement from July 14th, 1975 for the start date of the film, which was then called "The Star Wars."
This press clipping for the film describes it taking place in the "the future, the past, and the present."
The casting announcement for Mark Hamill, who was making his feature film debut, called his character "Luke Skykiller" which was Luke Skywalker's name in the original script.
The casting announcement for Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher mentioned that Fisher was the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, and Ford was to play a "starpilot."
The headline on the casting announcement for Alec Guinness, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi, shows that his role was expected to be the biggest in the film.
One lucky fan got this ticket stub to see a special sneak preview of "Star Wars" on May 24, 1977, which was one day before the release of the film.
This advertisement from 20th Century Fox announces how the film would sound and look.
Warning: There are some minor spoilers ahead.
Since Sony Pictures announced its plans to expand the Spider-Man universe on screen, we knew “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” would be teasing off some characters and villains from future movies.
Back in December, we wrote about a scene we spotted in a trailer for the film showing a brief glimpse of some of Spidey’s biggest villains.
The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it image put a few classic bad guys from Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery front and center.
Here you’ll spot the Vulture and Doctor Octopus’ famous gear.
If you see the movie this weekend, stick around through the series of initial credits. If you’re a big Spider-Man fan you’ll be briefly rewarded.
The credits sequence ever-so-subtly hints at who else will be joining the Sinister Six gang through a series of vague images.
Alicia Keys released a video for her new single from the film, “It’s On Again.” If you Shazam the song during the credits, you’ll be able to gain access the end-credits sequence.
The folks over at Comingsoon.net first spotted that you could Shazam the song now, ahead of the film’s release. Here are the images you’ll see.
This appear's to be the Vulture's wing:
Most recognizable is this nod to the Green Goblin's glider.
Here we see Doctor Octopus' tentacles.
This is where it starts to get tricky. Some think the next three are possible nods to Mysterio or maybe the Chameleon and Kraven the Hunter. However, it makes more sense that one of the final two images alludes to the Rhino. (We'll explain.)
Honestly, the image getting passed around from December gives a better look at what to expect from the future Sinister Six gang. Regardless, it's still causing a lot of excitement.
The big takeaway here is that since there are about 10 variations of the Sinister Six group in the comics, everyone wants to know which characters will make the cut.
By process of elimination from what we already know, it’s not too difficult.
So far we know the Green Goblin (Harry Osborn) will be leading the group.
The Rhino will be next to join the team as he’s introduced in the film briefly. We can almost certainly count on Vulture and Doc Ock being a part of the six, too. That leaves two spots open.
Electro may or may not be back as a member. It’s kind of open ended at the end of the sequel, but anything’s possible in a superhero movie. We should also remember that the Lizard from the first “Amazing Spider-Man” is also out there somewhere.
When Green Goblin led the team in the comics, there were as many as 12 members in the crew including Electro, Lizard, Vulture, Venom, and Chameleon. Since the release of the end-credits, Kraven the Hunter, Chameleon, and Mysterio are receiving a lot of buzz.
We'd be pretty upset if Venom wasn't included — especially since there's been talk about the character getting his own film.
Who do you think is a part of the Sinister Six and does this hold a flame to Marvel's "Avengers" squad?
The story typically goes something like this. In the 1960s, Hollywood had weathered an economic crisis but was losing an ongoing battle with television, so it turned to youth-oriented, smaller projects and gave unprecedented freedom to envelope-pushing directors who worshipped in the churches of Bergman, Kurosawa, Hawkes.
Then Jaws (huge) and Star Wars (way huge) came along in the mid-late 70s, imbuing Hollywood with a renewed focus on entertainment spectacle that has, for the most part, dominated its practice since.
George Lucas’s original Star Wars without doubt had a significant role in shifting the industrial history of Hollywood toward what we recognize today. It illustrated the lucrative possibilities of mass merchandising, helped elevate B-movie genre fare to A-movie status, and contributed to the now-entrenched thinking that informs our annual movie calendars: the notion that big, expensive fun belongs on our summer movie screens. Yet despite its arguably peerless impact on popular culture in 1977, Star Wars alone resides far more comfortably alongside the film school generation of New Hollywood than the blockbuster mentality it allegedly produced.
Rather, it was the film’s 1980 sequel The Empire Strikes Back that made good the changes that have since come to dominate the logic of today’s Hollywood.
The Sequel as an Expanding Narrative Universe, Not a Retread
With notable exceptions like The Godfather series (whose first two parts are essentially one complete film), the dominant practice of film series and sequels in Hollywood before 1980 was a simple formula of repetition with slight difference: add a few elements that make a rehash distinct from its original, but promise to reliably deliver the same experience. Take the first two Smokey and The Bandit films, which were also released between 1977 and 1980. Both films have essentially the exact plot skeleton, with the same cast and the same narrative beats, except that the second film co-stars Dom DeLuise while Jackie Gleason stretches into multiple roles.
In the documentary Empire of Dreams, Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner explains the prospect of a Star Wars follow-up within late-70s expectations of what Hollywood sequels could be:
“[Lucas] said, ‘How would you like to do the second Star Wars?’…And I said, ‘Gee George, I don’t think so. It was a phenomenal hit as a picture and a second one could only be a second one. It can’t be as good because the first one is the breakthrough.’”
Kershner was, of course, convinced to helm the sequel, and Lucas laid out the stakes rather starkly. According to Kershner, Lucas explained, “If it doesn’t work, then it’s the end of Star Wars. If it does work, then I can continue making them.”
Lucas’s terms for the future of Star Wars demonstrates the web of determinations between business and narrative in the new blockbuster Hollywood: the extent of narrative storytelling is not dependent upon any perceived need to see a story through to its natural conclusion, but based rather within terms of business success relative to the size of a production; and financial success became, in turn, a mandate to extend narrative. With each entry, the production becomes bigger, as does the benchmark for justifying a continued narrative. These are the seeds of a Hollywood that would become known for skyrocketing budgets and repeated acts of hinging a studio’s worth on the continued relevance of a few familiar properties.
Furthermore, Empire was not, and could never be, a standalone film. It existed within the matrix of a greater narrative universe, an authoritative but not autonomous node in a franchise far bigger than one film (or even three). Empire was released within the context of comic books, speculation, and, of course, a very popular first film.
Perhaps what is most forgotten about Empire is how much it reshaped and altered the way Star Wars itself is viewed. No longer can the original Star Wars be retrospectively understood as the isolated cultural phenomenon it was in 1977; now, it is the inaugurating text in a vast saga that spans across novels, TV series, video games, and Internet ephemera. The “Episode IV – A New Hope” title was not added to the opening crawl until Star Wars’s theatrical re-release in 1981. Up until then, Star Wars was the title of an individual film, not an infinite series. The expanded universe of the present is continually mapped onto the franchise’s past.
Empire changed the way we view blockbuster entertainment and sequels specifically: not as autonomous films, nor even as retreads, but as contributions to an expanding and potentially limitless narrative universe whose existence is justified as long as it remains profitable. The extensive Marvel cinematic universe would be unimaginable without Empire.
A Medium of Franchises (Not Directors) and Entries (Not Movies)
…And people certainly took notice of this sea change in storytelling in the wake of event filmmaking. Vincent Canby’s 1980 review of Empire is a fascinating historical artifact in its honest befuddlement with how to evaluate a decidedly “incomplete” film such as this:
“‘The Empire Strikes Back’ is not a truly terrible movie. It’s a nice movie… Strictly speaking, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ isn’t even a complete narrative. It has no beginning or end, being simply another chapter in a serial that appears to be continuing not onward and upward but sideways. How, then, to review it?
. . . I’m also puzzled by the praise that some of my colleagues have heaped on the work of Irvin Kershner, whom Lucas, who directed ‘Star Wars’ and who is the executive producer of this one, hired to direct ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ Perhaps my colleagues have information denied to those of us who have to judge the movie by what is on the screen. . . Who, exactly, did what in this movie? I cannot tell, and even a certain knowledge of Kershner’s past work (‘Eyes of Laura Mars,’ ‘The Return of a Man Called Horse,’ ‘Loving’) gives me no hints about the extent of his contributions to this movie. ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ is about as personal as a Christmas card from a bank. I assume that Lucas supervised the entire production and made the major decisions or, at least, approved of them. It looks like a movie that was directed at a distance.”
Even in 1980, Hollywood was still the place of directorial power. In 1979 and 1980, Scorsese, Coppola, Friedkin, and Cimino (for better or worse) could still entice a Hollywood studio towards banking their uncompromising vision. Movies, especially for the cinephile, were in turn readable as the work of a director. The more populist films of Lucas and Spielberg were no different in this regard – they came of the same left-leaning, cinephilia-infused film school generation as Scorsese and Coppola (Lucas was arguably more radical than all of them), but simply preferred a different kind of feature film.
Regardless of what you think of Canby’s review, the shift he witnesses here is quite astute and prescient.
Rather than a film readable through the work of its director, Empire was a film only readable as an entry into a franchise. Lucas’ authorial stamp exists as businessman, showrunner, and spectacle-wrangler, not as the artistic eyes into the narrative universe, evident in stylistic and thematic choices onscreen. What Canby evaluates is the fact that Empire’s personality and style belong not to any individual, but to a narrative system imbued by a set of business interests greater than the person ostensibly calling the shots on set.
In at least technical terms, Kershner’s direction is on point, arguably even “better” than Lucas’s. But while Kershner was a talented director, nobody would argue that it’s his film. And it would be reductive to suggest that it’s Lucas’ film in classic authorial terms. Instead, Empire is a major cog in a far larger assembly line of Star Wars-related narrative contributions, one that evinces the ways that a series can both drastically change tone and expand its scope.
The director is by no means invisible in the franchise film, but it is rarely “their film.”
The Blockbuster Opening Weekend and Its Byproducts
Despite photographic histories that show massive crowds outside major movie palaces, supposedly operating as evidence of the immediacy of Star Wars’s cultural takeover, the original film was something of a grassroots hit. When 20th Century Fox provided little more than posters in support of the film, marketing director Charles Lippincott took to venues like Comic-Con and licensed media outlets like Marvel Comics and Del Rey Books to promote it.
While Lippincott’s efforts are arguably an early precedent for the fan marketing strategies that have since dominated the promotion of fantastic genre films big and small, such practices more closely resemble the niche marketing concurrently en vogue in television’s developments during the late 1970s: most notably the targeted ad bundles of the emerging basic cable market and the regional appeal of early subscription cable networks like HBO. The initial promotion of Star Wars hardly resembles the wall-to-wall marketing that characterizes contemporary blockbusters. Opening to a $36,000 per-screen average on 43 screens, Star Wars’ initial success is due largely to word of mouth demand, not studio hype.
The marketing of The Empire Strikes Back, however, was supported by the full efforts of a major studio, complete with an onslaught of trailers, posters, press interviews, production and casting news, international premieres, and even spoilers with no equivalent to the first entry’s prehistory. More importantly, the relationship between the film and its merchandizing was reversed: anything from records to toys to pinball machines preceded the film’s release date, functioning not as means of profiting from an existing cinematic phenomenon, but as objects geared toward the promotion of its predictably lucrative continuation.
Merchandise no longer consisted of ancillary Star Wars products, but announced a more reciprocal relationship as objectified means of advertising the film itself. This accelerated, expanded approach to promotion operates akin to the widely cast tentpole marketing of today. Between toys and t-shirts, comic books and cereal boxes, movie merchandising now developed a circular relationship with affiliated films, simultaneously promoting and banking off of the popularity of a franchise that could potentially exist into perpetuity.
As the promotional machinery of Hollywood prepares us for a new Star Wars entry by channeling the series’ legacy, it’s useful to remember what that legacy has inherited, and how present nostalgia often colors the ways we think of the past. Star Wars was an unprecedented cultural phenomenon, but it wasn’t an anomaly of 1977 Hollywood. It is Empire, not Star Wars, that we have to credit for the franchise-based blockbuster mentality that dominates Hollywood’s current business practices from release dates to re-imaginings to universe extension.
With Empire, Lucas created something bigger than himself, something so consequential that it ironically even built up gates into Hollywood through which even he could not enter. It’s all too appropriate, then, that an upcoming Star Wars film as part of a prospective franchise relaunch, by a director other than Lucas, both promotes itself according to and benefits from the very set of practices its creator introduced to Hollywood almost 34 years ago.
Now, as international audiences and stateside press get a look at this sequel, they believe director Marc Webb made the right decision when he left the actress' performance on the cutting room floor.
Not because she turned in a bad acting job, or because she wasn't sexy enough to play the future model wife of Peter Parker. But simply because this is one sequel that is stuffed to the brim with characters and plot. One more story thread may have made the whole thing explode like Mr. Creosote eating an after-dinner thin mint. Even so, fans are still interested to know what those few scenes involving Mary Jane consisted of, and how they tied into the plot as it now plays out on screen.
You might want to stop reading now, as the rest of this story contains a MAJOR SPOILER! for audiences unfamiliar with the comic book arc The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is based on.
According to Marc Webb, Shailene Woodley's few precious scenes were gutted as a means to keep the focus on Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy's growing relationship. As in the comic books, Gwen does die in the sequel, and having Mary Jane added to the mix would have distracted from the shock and pain of that important moment in Parker's history as a character.
The director reveals there were only two scenes, and explains where and how they would have squeezed into the already bloated storyline.
"There was one little scene at the beginning where she is next door and it took place right around the montage where he comes back and there was another little moment between Gwen and MJ. But it just tipped over. The relationship between them [Peter and Gwen] is so sacred and so powerful, that it just didn't feel right. And it sucks because Shailene is such a f**king great actress and so cool and magical but it was just about having this obligation to this romance that I thought was sacred. It was just one of those things."
You'll notice Webb is careful to praise his fired actress. When asked if she will return for The Amazing Spider-Man 3 in 2016, he relies on the old standby Divergent excuse to explain why she won't return.
"Divergent is a massive hit and I think it's going to be tricky for schedules."
That's an easy out for Sony, as they will surely announce a new Mary Jane in the very near future. Multiple insiders claim that Shailene Woodley was given the boot because producers felt she had been miscast. Even without Divergent and its next three sequels, Shailene Woodley was never going to be asked back for future installments. Its not even known if Mary Jane will appear in the next sequel, as Felicity Jones has already started laying the ground work for Felicia Hardy (aka Black Cat)'s relationship with Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man 3. Giving Peter a second new girlfriend helps distance it from Sam Raimi's original trilogy, which has obviously been the plan all along.
Do you want to see Mary Jane in The Amazing Spider-Man 3? Or would you rather the focus stay on Felicia Hardy?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 comes to theaters May 2nd, 2014 and stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Felicity Jones, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field. The film is directed by Marc Webb.
Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead.
If you head out to see "The Amazing Spider-Man" sequel this weekend, be prepared to see a lot of Sony products alongside the webslinger.
Sony phones. Sony laptops. Sony televisions. If Sony makes it, it's bound to be in the movie.
Here's a promotional photo of Peter Parker's bedroom from the film. How many Sony items can you spot?
We count at least three and a nod to a Sony Classics' movie. (We're not sure what kind of printer that is in the left hand corner, along with the headphones, and monitor. We'd be surprised if they weren't Sony, too.)
I can understand that any time a laptop is shown — from the opening scene to when Peter Parker's in his room — that it will be a VAIO. I'll even believe that Parker has a Sony cell phone.
However, there's another scene that's meant to be an emotional one between Peter and his Aunt May, and when the camera pulls back a bit, there's a Sony television on Parker's nightstand. Ugh.
There's another point when Parker steps into an old, abandoned subway car and an old Sony desktop is conveniently there.
All of a sudden, these moments became a lot less emotional and more about the Sony products staring audiences in the face. When marketing starts to takes viewers' focus away from the film for even the slightest moment it starts to become an eye roll.
That's what happened while watching "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."
I don't usually notice product placement in movies, or at least, I try not to. The last time I remember seeing such obvious marketing was while watching Nokia, Walmart, and Sears pop up alongside Superman in last summer's "Man of Steel." That movie reportedly had 100 companies pay $160 million for promotional tie-ins.
Again, I understand and know Sony's going to use its movie to show off its products, but does it need to be so painfully obvious? My problem here isn't that Sony's showing off its products. That's fine.
It just isn't believable. We don't live in a world with only Sony electronics and that's what makes the products stick out so much in the sequel.
One reason we head out to theaters is for the thrill of escapism — to live in someone else's world for awhile. When that world becomes riddled with marketing it starts to defeat the purpose of what the film is trying to do — entertain.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" is a Sony superhero living in a Sony world. We're just along for the ride.
"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" comes out Friday and reviews are pretty mixed.
While the film is expected to be a box-office hit this weekend making $95 million, many reviewers have noted the sequel's overriding focus on setting up sequels and spin-offs — in other words an attempt to replicate Disney’s superhero success at theaters.
That may leave a bit of a bad taste in moviegoer's mouths.
"There’s great action and compelling performances – Garfield is Spider-Man – but there’s also an obvious pressure to rapidly expand the Spider-Man universe that threatens to derail the film at points."
"The intention is clear – Sony wants their own expanded universe to rival Marvel, since Spidey joining the Avengers will remain the stuff of Garfield and other fans’ dreams. Paul Giamatti’s Rhino and Felicity Jones’s Felicia Hardy are given glorified cameos clearly designed to pay off down the line, in ASM3 or ASM4 or the already-promised Sinister Six spinoff.
What all this means is that the film often seems more focused on franchise-building than storytelling, nowhere more so than in its final few scenes."
"It's wildly overstuffed. Sony seems to have taken the lesson from the mammoth success of "The Avengers" that people want an abundance of characters in their superhero movies, but the script from J.J. Abrams acolytes Jeff Pinkner, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci flits around from plotline to plotline shapelessly, and the result is something bloated, that at 141 minutes, is way too long."
"Plans are already afoot for installments 3, 4 and Venom and Sinister Six spinoff movies, and that feels like a big a part of the problem here -Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems more like an exercise in calculated franchise architecture than its does a cohesive stand-alone blockbuster.”
"The illness Harry inherited from his father (Chris Cooper) spurs him to inject himself with spider serum and become the Green Goblin, which sets the table for a third-act battle-royal climax. And this is where the overstuffed, sequel-setting film goes a bit pear-shaped. While it's always a blast seeing comic-book heroes and bad guys square off in an F/X smackdown, Spidey 2 doesn't know when to end. The busy finale — or rather, finales — keeps coming until you want to blow a whistle and call it a draw just to make it stop."
Since "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," it feels like every impending superhero movie will ultimately have some sort of set up toward a larger franchise.
Warner Bros. recently announced a "Justice League" movie will follow its untitled Batman/Superman movie.
Still, the sequel should be an enjoyable one.
Many reviews praise director Marc Webb's action sequences — a NYC Times Square scene that’s been heavily promoted stands out — and the romantic storyline between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone on screen.
It should also be a successful film for Sony. It has already made $132 million overseas and is aiming to have the year's biggest opening weekend of the year so far.
Check out a trailer below:
It's well known that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are close friends, so when Lucas' "Star Wars" eclipsed Spielberg's "Jaws" as the all-time box-office leader back in 1977, Spielberg took out a full-page ad in Variety magazine congratulating his old pal.
The ad has R2-D2 from "Star Wars" reeling in the giant shark that terrorized beachgoers in "Jaws." Spielberg also writes a brief inscription saying that Lucas' "hyperspace performance package really did the trick" and signs it "your pal, Steven."
Check out the vintage full-page ad:
Once Spielberg's "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" reclaimed the box-office throne in 1982, Lucas returned the favor by taking out his own full-page ad in Variety.
Lucas kept the tradition alive, taking out this full-page ad when, in 1998, James Cameron's "Titanic" sank the reissue of "Star Wars" to become the top box-office movie of all time.
"It was an extremely gracious gesture," Cameron said in a recent Reddit AMA. "I sent him a thank-you note after."
It's a new month, and that means a bunch of awesome new movies being put into the Netflix catalog.
This month's list has plenty of excellent flicks — and some not so excellent — but there's likely something here to satisfy any taste. The obvious favorites include Oscar-winners "Forrest Gump,""Gladiator," and the classic "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington."
But it's also worth noting the addition of a bunch of classic Godzilla and James Bond films. So get some popcorn and prepare yourself a Martini (shaken, not stirred of course).
Here's the full list:
Available on May 1:
- Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
- Boys Don't Cry (1999)
- Broadway Idiot (2013)
- Forrest Gump (1994)
- Gladiator (2000)
- Hook (1991)
- Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
- Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
- Kiss the Girls (1997)
- La Bamba (1987)
- Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
- Psych: Season 7
- The Big Chill (1983)
- The Prince of Tides (1991)
- Goldfinger (1964)
- A View to a Kill (1985)
- For Your Eyes Only (1981)
- From Russia with Love (1963)
- Live and Let Die (1973)
- Never Say Never Again (1983)
- You Only Live Twice (1967)
- Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965)
- Godzilla vs. Mothra (1964)
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1956)
- Godzilla's Revenge (1969)
Available on May 4:
- Top Gear: Series 20
Available on May 8:
- Royal Pains: Season 5
Available on May 9:
- Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
Available on May 10:
- Pain and Gain (2013)
Available on May 11:
- American Dad!: Season 8
- Apartment 1303 (2012)
Available on May 13:
- Free Birds (2013)
Available on May 15:
- Eddie Murphy: Delirious (1983)
- Jenny McCarthy's Dirty Sexy Funny (2014)
- Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)
Available on May 16:
- Sanctum (2011)
Available on May 17:
- Scandal: Season 3
- Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Available on May 22:
- Machete Kills (2013)
Available on May 27:
- Escape from Tomorrow (2013)
- Leviathan (2012)
- Vanishing of the Bees (2009)
Available on May 29:
- Brave Miss World (2013)
- These Birds Walk (2013)
Available on May 30:
- Derek: Season 2
- Wicker Park (2004)
Available on May 31:
- Annie Hall (1977)
On May 16th, the newest incarnation of cinema's most nefarious mega-monster will start surging through movie theaters across the States.
This is the first Godzilla re-boot in a decade, and based on what we know so far about this installment in the Kaiju franchise, this version genuinely looks awesome. We're talking really epic. It doesn't hurt that it stars Bryan Cranston in his first leading gig since Breaking Bad's finale.
But let's be honest, it's the metropolis-razing, indomitable creature who uses skyscrapers as toothpicks that we're all vying to watch in awe.
Though the trailer only teased us with a few quick glimpses of Godzilla, we now have some actual statistics and information about the VFX used to spawn this beast that give us a better idea of how hair-raisingly intense 2014's version of the monster truly is:
The Movie Bit has made a video compiling all the statistics from both the production of the feature, as well as the nitty gritty measurements of what this monster would look like if it were actually real.
To start, the video effects are so sharp and powerful, it would take 445 Years to render Godzilla on a single computer. In other words, the design team would have had to start working during the Renaissance to get this beast up to par for a May 2014 release.
Not only were 4 CGI artists hired from Motion Picture Company to create the scales, but it took them 6 months to fully nail the texture, which includes 500,00 polygons used in the 3D-modeling process.
Oh, and the four CGI gurus are on top of the 762 other visual effects crew members hired to work on this film. To give a little more VFX insight on the making of Godzilla, there are 960 visual effects shots through the whole film, and 327 shots specifically of the monster.
The trailer might just tantalize us with a couple Kaiju cameos, but it sounds like the eponymous giant will be getting plenty of screen-time.
Now that it's crystal clear that this colossal reptilian is a visual tour de force, let's translate all those polygons into what Godzilla would look like if we were in the film with it (though realistically we wouldn't have a chance to really measure him as we'd be darting for the hills, running from our inevitable doom).
At 355-feet-tall with a tail that stretches 550-feet, this is the tallest onscreen Godzilla ever. He may only have 60 teeth, but each canine is about 4-feet-long and 2-feet wide—about the size of a thin (and Hattori Hanzo-sharp) boogie board.
The Movie Bit also added that it would take 90,000 tons of water to fill the monster to its brim. Good luck drowning this guy, though.
And his blood-curdling screech? To get that scream as terrifying as humanly possible, the movie's creators used 100,000 watts of power channeled through a huge speaker to achieve the perfect sound. Within the film's world, the roar travels approximately 3 miles. Imagine hearing that and not peeing yourself. Not gonna happen..
Watch the trailer of the film, and see some extra statistics about this gargantuan below. He's coming for you:
The Monster's Stats
Height: 355ft (108.2m) Godzilla’s towering height in the 2014 film—the tallest onscreen incarnation ever
Tail: 550ft 4in (167.74m) Total length of Godzilla’s spiked tail
Volume: 90,000 tons Godzilla’s volume if filled with water
Teeth: 1.73ft (53cm) Depth of Godzilla’s canine teeth at their widest point
Teeth: 3.51ft (1.07m) Length from the root to the tips of Godzilla’s canine teeth
Teeth: 60 Teeth in Godzilla’s mouth
Roar: 3 miles (4.83km) Approximate distance Godzilla’s roar reverberates. (100,000W Power of the 12-foot-high, 18-foot-wide speaker array from which the sound designers blasted Godzilla’s roar to record the sound in a “real world” context)
Feet: 58ft (17.66m) Total width of Godzilla’s feet across the widest point
Feet: 60ft (18.18m) Length of Godzilla’s footprint from toe to heel
Fins: 89 Dorsal fins spiking down Godzilla’s back from his head to the tip of his tail
The Production Stats
- 4 CGI artists from Motion Picture Company (MPC) to create Godzilla’s scales
- 6 Months MPC’s CGI artists spent animating Godzilla’s scales in their full texture and detail
- 327 Total number of creature visual effects shots created by MPC for the 2014 Godzilla
- 762 Number of visual effects crew working on Godzilla
- 960 Total number of visual effects shots in Godzilla
- 360° Entire breadth of the San Francisco skyline captured from multiple angles by visual effects technicians, which were merged into a 3D city backdrop for the film’s epic finale
- 418 Total number of visual effects shots encompassing backgrounds and environments created by Double Negative for the 2014 Godzilla
- 500,000 Polygons used by MPC artists to create the Godzilla 3D model
- 445 Years it would take to render Godzilla on a single computer; an MPC artist would have had to start in the 16th Century, 1570
- 6 Cities where Godzilla was filmed
- 7 Total filming units enlisted in the production on Godzilla
- 98 Sets created by production designer Owen Paterson and his team for the film
- 500 Approximate number of crew members on Gareth Edwards’ mammoth production of Godzilla
- 400ft (122m) Stretch of the 8,980-ft-long Golden Gate Bridge built on the backlot of the Canadian Motion Picture Park studios
- $160 Million budget
Yeah, so this scaled leviathan is definitely an upgrade from past Godzillas. To get deeper into the evolution of this, well, evolved creature—our friends at Motherboard recently wrote a brief history of our favorite city-shattering, nuclear nightmare.
All stats and images via The Movie Bit
Nash Grier and Cameron Dallas, two of the most popular personalities on Twitter's video service Vine, will be getting their own movie, according to The Daily Dot.
The two Vine stars, which have a combined following of more than 11 million people on the micro-video social platform, are partnering with Awesomeness TV for the film.
Awesomeness TV is an online channel focused on content created by teens. It was acquired by DreamWorks for $33 million last May.
In a statement, Awesomeness TV CEO Brian Robbins said that the movie is "a natural step" for Grier and Dallas since they already have a "dedicated fan base."
There's no word yet on when the movie will be released or what it will be about.
Most of Grier and Dallas' Vine clips are just plain silly. Some of the most popular video segments poke fun at girls taking selfies, moms always thinking that you never have enough sunblock, and spoofing scenes from movies such as "Titanic." Based on Dallas and Grier's Vine repertoire, it's probably safe to assume the movie will be a comedy.
The two Vine personalities have attracted a lot of attention over the past several months. Grier appeared in a segment on ABC's Good Morning America in October, and has more followers on Vine than Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Ellen DeGeneres.
Here's a look at some of the most popular Vine posts from the duo:
Marc Webb is a lucky man. Not just because of the lucrative The Amazing Spider-Man 2 paycheck that’s headed his way. Or the fact that he has finally put an end to the hotly debated “nuh uh, Spider-Man could totally beat Rhino, Electro and the Green Goblin if he wanted to” standoffs of his childhood. Webb’s lucky that he’s even been able to make a Spider-Man movie at all.
Because slingin’ ain’t easy. Not for Spider-Man, and not for the trail of corpses that dot his long and troublesome road to the big screen.
Not human corpses, obviously (if there actually was a trail of bodies left in the wake of a Spider-Man movie, you’d probably hear about it on a site slightly more serious than this one), but the desiccated remains of countless Spider-screenplays and Spider-pitches, which for one reason or another just couldn’t cut it in the big leagues.
Our story begins in 1976.
Steve Krantz’ Spider-Man
Steve Krantz knew his way around comic adaptations. He was a producer; a producer of cartoons like The Mighty Thor, The Marvel Super Heroes and the original 1967 Spider-Man series, plus both feature film adaptations of Robert Crumb’s Fritz the Cat. And in 1976, Krantz was the first human man to try and put a spidered man on the big screen.
His original idea was a touch outside the box — a grand Spider-Man fantasy complete with showstopping song and dance numbers, but eventually he tapered his pitch into something more streamlined. It would be an adaptation of the seminal 1973 storyline “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” but with a few subtle additions like a giant robot and hordes of Nazi stormtroopers. Krantz was no button-down storyteller, that’s for sure.
But in ’77, a different Spider-Man film was born, a live-action TV movie that spurned on a live-action TV show about the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. And when that first TV movie/pilot hybrid creature was shown in theaters to international audiences, Spidey had his theatrical debut… a debut entirely without Steve Krantz and without dancing Nazis.
Roger Corman’s Spider-Man
In 1982, the Spider-Man machine revved to life once more, when Roger Corman, schlock producer extraordinaire, got his hands on the property. And Corman knew his Spider-Man. Or knew enough to hire Stan Lee as the screenwriter.
With Lee at the helm, we finally had a Spider-Man film that treated Spider-fans with respect and Spider-faithfulness. It hit all the right notes: radioactive spider bite, Uncle Ben, Mary Jane, Doctor Octopus. The works. Sure, maybe there was a sequence where Spidey intervened into US foreign policy to stop a nuclear war with Russia, but the rest of the shoe fit just fine.
But what Corman and Lee wanted out of Spider-Man were two drastically different things. Lee wanted big-budget, big-action spectacle, and Corman wanted to a comic book movie that could be budgeted with the handful of crumpled bills he had in his pocket. And just like last time, the project went bust. Don’t worry, though. Corman eventually got his “I shot this in my basement”-quality Marvel movie with 1994′s The Fantastic Four.
Leslie Stevens’ Spider-Man
Corman’s deal came to an end, and in 1985 Marvel offered their hand to another potential suitor. This time it was Cannon Films, a B-movie factory famous for its endless supply of Death Wish sequels and movies where Chuck Norris Taekwondo’d people to death. Also Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, which isn’t particularly relevant here but must be mentioned, regardless.
The two men at the top of Cannon (Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus) got a sweetheart deal on the Spider-Man name, paying only $225,000 for the rights. What they didn’t have was a clue about who Spider-Man was. They heard Spider-Man and thought The Wolfman, and hired The Outer Limits creator Leslie Stevens to write a hip new horror movie about this man-spider guy no one had bothered to research.
The final product had Peter Parker bombarded with radiation by the fiendish Dr. Zork, mutating into a horrible mesh of man and tarantula. This thoroughly unpleasant “Spider Man” must now fight the dreaded mutant armies of Dr. Zork, because this was the ’80s and dreaded mutant armies were all the rage.
Cannon had Tobe Hooper all set to direct, but Hooper left the project only a few months after it was set up. Not long after, Stevens’ script was taken out behind the old barn and shot.
Ted Newsom and John Brancato’s Spider-Man
Hooper was out, but B-movie action director Joseph Zito was in. And along with Zito came a brand new script — one with no Dr. Zork and no tarantula parts. Not even a single Cold War nuclear standoff. It was Spider-Man as he was meant to be. Written by Ted Newsom and John Brancato, the latest screenplay saw Spidey save New York City (and also the known universe) from Doctor Octopus, who was chest-deep in the kind of needlessly dangerous pseudo-science that only guys with eight arms ever get into. Notable was the inclusion of Liz Allan as Peter Parker’s love interest, instead of one her more popular classmates, like MJ or Gwen Stacy.
But this is a tale of failed Spider-Man movies, and a decent screenplay cannot survive here. Thus, the Newsom/Brancato script lasted up until its first rewrite, when writer Barney Cohen stepped in to throw a pile of new ideas at Spider-Man. They were probably all winners, right? Let’s take a look!
These ideas included:
- Giving Doc Ock the catchphrase, “Okey Dokey.”
- Assigning Doc Ock a hulking comic relief sidekick named Weiner.
- Changing Ock’s name from “Doctor Octopus” to “Professor Octopus,” which has just as clever a ring to it and was totally worth changing.
It’s also worth noting that around this time, people were bandying about the first casting rumors. Spider-Man was rumored to be either Tom Cruise or stuntman Scott Leva; Bob Hoskins was the frontrunner for Doc Ock; Stan Lee really, really wanted to play J. Jonah Jameson. (Take note, whoever’s casting The Amazing Spider-Man 3: that last one is absolutely genius, and probably the only option that wouldn’t pale in comparison to J.K. Simmons.)
When the script was on its last legs, Menahem Golan, under his penname Joseph Goldman, threw in a small rewrite as well. But it was around this time (that time being the early nineties) that Cannon finally buckled under financial pressures, and the Spider-Man name found a new home in Carolco Pictures. It also found a new filmmaker willing to champion the Spider-Man cause: James Cameron.
Yet the Doc Ock script just would not die. It lingered on, with Cameron throwing his name (plus slight alterations of Barney Cohen and Joseph Goldman’s names) on the title page and calling it his own.
But James Cameron is not a man to laugh at the word “weiner.” Not now. Not ever. And by 1993 he had his own original Spider-Man in the works.
James Cameron’s Spider-Man
The opposite of “laughing at the word weiner” is probably a sex-fueled screaming rage, and that’s exactly what Cameron pumped into his own version of Spider-Man’s story. His scriptment (part script, part treatment, all unrelenting teenage angst) was the perfect embodiment of the edgy ’90s style that was also plaguing the comic book industry at the time. Cameron’s Peter Parker could toss out a “motherfucker” like it was nothing, and at one point swung Mary Jane to the top of the World Trade Center for a bout of graphic sex. But only after reciting (and acting out) the mating rituals of various species of spider, because nothing gets a girl in the mood like repeated use of the word “thorax.”
For villains, Cameron used Electro and Sandman, and by “used,” I mean “threw out everything about their characters except their supervillain names and a vague approximation of their powers.” Max Dillon, the electrical engineer who goes all villainy after becoming a human bug zapper, is now Carlton Strand, a small-time crook who becomes a megabillionaire after he figures out how to use his electricity powers to steal money (and “information,” somehow) from computers. Flint Marko, otherwise known as Sandman, is now just some schlub named Boyd who punches the things Electro tells him to punch.
Very little of Cameron’s work ever saw the light of day. But one of Cameron’s ideas would actually make it onto the big screen: organic webshooters. Edgy 90′s Spider-Man had little organs on his wrists, “dark [shapes] the size and color of a rose thorn,” that shot spider-goo in a manner not unlike a middle school sex-ed video. Future filmmakers did not care for Cameron’s other ideas, like Peter accidentally dropping a little kid off the side of the building and watching him die, or his suggestion of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Doc Ock (back when he was still tooling with the Cannon screenplay). But in gross little wrist pustules, Cameron’s legacy would live on.
David Fincher’s Spider-Man
Ok, so the whole time Cameron and Carolco were working on Spider-Man? It turns out that Menahem Golan was, too. And due to a series of complex legal thingies, both Carolco and Golan had their own separate film rights to Spider-Man. Which led to lawsuits.
Then Viacom got involved, to more lawsuits.
Then 20th Century Fox (lawsuits).
Then Columbia (lawsuits).
Then MGM (lawsuits).
The six entities sued, countersued, and generally flung legal feces at each other for about seven years, from 1993-1999, during which period several of the companies involved filed for bankruptcy, making things much smoother and not an even bigger mess of useless angry litigation. But in ’99, a winner emerged: Columbia Pictures. And they got to work posthaste, lining up four potential directors that same year. Of the four, none of whom got the job (Chris Columbus, Roland Emmerich, David Fincher, Tim Burton), only Fincher’s ideas ever came to light.
Probably because they were a little funky. Fincher was not into the whole “origin story” thing. After all, that’s what everyone else was doing. Instead, he wanted to do an adaptation of “The Night Gwen Stacy Died.” Which, in itself, sounds fairly ordinary. But you need to give the audiences some clue of the “teenager + unusual spiderbite = red and blue spandex” thing, and Fincher wanted to get this across through song.
“The title sequence of the movie that I was going to do was going to be a ten minute — basically a music video, an opera, which was going to be the one shot that took you through the entire Peter Parker [backstory].”
The people of 2014 might hear “Peter Parker” and “opera” and immediately suffer a violent “Turn Off the Dark” episode, but the people of 1999 knew nothing of the sort, and even they passed on a David Fincher Spider-Man mini-rock opera. In a way, it’s fitting; Steve Krantz started this long and terrible struggle with thoughts of a Spider-Man musical, and Fincher was its final casualty with a similar train of thought. Truly, time is a flat Spider-circle.
Once Raimi was locked into the franchise, the Spider-Man movie body count dried up real fast. Every once in a while, a leg or a torso might be found amongst the wreckage, an early draft of David Koepp‘s Spider-Man had Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin as competing villains, only for Doc Ock to be axed to make room for more Norman/Harry bonding time. And Michael Chabon wrote a wonderfully nuanced draft of Spider-Man 2 that was chewed up and repurposed into the Spider-Man 2 we know today.
But now Sony (owner of Columbia) has the Spidey rights held firmly in hand, and if they let go even for a second, Marvel Studios will put Spider-Man in The Avengers 3 and win all comic book movies forever. That means no more of the crazy crap we saw in the ’80s and ’90s. Which is probably a good thing, in the long run. Even if the crazy crap is fun to read about.
Terminator: Genesis has been cultivating a stable of geek friendly actors who are no strangers to big-ticket blockbusters. Jai Courtney, Emilia Clarke, and Jason Clarke (to name a few) were all brought on with increasing levels of excitement.
But now we’ve learned that the biggest catch in the geek universe has been landed. Matt Smith, as of today, is officially on board. Not just for Genesis, but for presumably the whole reported trilogy. An official press release was issued today mentioning that:
"Smith will play a new character with a strong connection to John Connor, alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi and Byung Hun Lee."
Momentarily sidelining speculation as to just who the good Doctor will be playing, Deadline's Mike Fleming had a little more to say about this new, top secret role:
"I’m told they are casting Matt Smith, who has played The Doctor in Doctor Who, in a major role that will grow in the second and third films."
Let that marinate a little bit in your mind. "A major role that will grow in the second and third films." Now let’s take into account what we know: Jason Clarke is John Connor, so that role obviously doesn’t apply. Jai Courtney is Kyle Reese, so another name is crossed off the list. There’s talk about the series involving some time travel into past installments of the series, at least that’s if the draft that HitFix recently read is still valid. Throw in Byung-Hun Lee as a possible heavy, and our options start to limit themselves.
In the heroes’ camp, Matt Smith could play a programmer sent back from the future with special knowledge of SkyNet. Knowledge that might just alter the time line to a point where, once and for all, it doesn’t exist. Stereotypically, he could also have the knowledge of the time travel process, thus allowing our characters to jump from time to time, altering the future to their specifications.
Of course, anyone who’s watched Doctor Who will tell you that Smith can play villain and hero in equal measure. His performance as The Doctor has more than occasionally bordered on the grey area of morality, which makes him an even better candidate to play a villain. Maybe even THE villain, depending on how this film treats McG's relevant Terminator: Salvation. If this film treats that one like the audience on the whole did, we might see Smith as a new interpretation of SkyNet in corporeal form. Think of it: the knowledge and strategic nature of The Doctor, but with a severe distaste for humanity that borders on genocidal. Looks like his role as The Doctor might have trained him for his future career more than he ever knew.
Terminator: Genesis is currently in production, and will be released on July 1, 2015.
Warning: There are massive spoilers ahead.
"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is out in theaters this weekend, and many people will be upset with the end of the film.
If you've seen every trailer for the movie, there aren't many surprises at all until maybe one of the final scenes.
Even then, you're probably able to guess what happens. There's been a lot of fan speculation about a major character death occurring in the film.
Last chance to head back before spoilers.
Well, they did it.
Much like the popular comic, the sequel kills off Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) in a final climatic battle.
The punches kind of never stop coming so when this occurs you may be in action overload and not even fully grasp the full effect of what just happened.
It's a moment that makes your stomach lurch and your heart jump into your chest. It's also a moment that will be difficult for parents to explain to children.
Comic book fans have predicted this was coming. Sony put out a trailer showing Stone wearing the iconic outfit Stacy wears in the comic when she’s killed inadvertently by the Green Goblin and Spider-Man.
We've discussed at length whether or not director Marc Webb would actually follow through with the iconic comic sequence.
The sequel doesn’t make it look like Spider-Man necessarily kills Gwen by snapping her back or neck. Instead, it looks like she may have also received a fatal blow to the head from a clock gear.
The scene is hinted at from early on in the film. As Stacy delivers an ominous Valedictorian speech at her high school graduation essentially embracing and welcoming death, you know there’s no way she’s making it out of this film alive.
"I know that we all think we're immortal, we're supposed to feel that way, we're graduating. The future is and should be bright, but, like our brief four years in high school, what makes life valuable is that it doesn't last forever, what makes it precious is that it ends. I know that now more than ever. And I say it today of all days to remind us that time is luck. So don't waste it living someone else's life, make yours count for something. Fight for what matters to you, no matter what. Because even if you fall short, what better way is there to live?"
Despite the hints of Stacy’s impending doom, it seems like Sony is pulling the trigger on this one too early. We knew it would happen eventually to make room for Spidey’s other love interest Mary Jane Watson, but the studio’s missing out on a huge opportunity by letting Stone go now.
Not only is the chemistry between real-life couple Stone and Garfield one of the best parts of the franchise, Gwen Stacy's character is one of the strongest female leads in a recent superhero movie who has resonated so well with audiences and young moviegoers.
In many ways, she makes the movie as much as Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield).
The New York Times' reviewer Manohla Dargis noted this, too.
"Most women in the big comic-book movies continue to be consigned to supporting roles, and especially antediluvian ones, good for ogling and saving and not much more. Gwen is actually more interesting. That’s because, unlike some other superhero stories in which godlike heroes live and love among ordinary folk, Peter remains a strongly human presence ... This blunt, uncharacteristically violent development is true to the source material, but it’s a bummer and a blown opportunity, both narratively and in terms of how the male and female characters work."
Clearly, audiences are extremely receptive of strong female leads girls can identify with. Look at what Jennifer Lawrence has done with “The Hunger Games” franchise that has gone on to make upwards of $1.5 billion after two movies.
If it wasn’t for the extreme success of that, we probably wouldn’t see Shailene Woodley leading another young-adult adaptation or Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow as more than eye candy in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” And we know what two female lead characters did for Disney’s “Frozen.”
Sony had something similar to the Tony Stark/Pepper Potts' relationship in the "Iron Man" films, but on a more equal-level playing field. Gwen was basically the yin to Spidey’s yang — minus the super powers, of course.
There's a scene in the sequel where Spider-Man needs to solve a problem and it's because of Gwen’s smarts he's able to figure it out.
The sequence is reminiscent of Barbara Gordon's eventual role in the Batman comics where she serves as a tech guru coined Oracle offering assistance to the Caped Crusader.
Kudos to Sony for killing off a main character, something Disney and Marvel has come close to with "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," but hasn’t executed yet on screen.
However, after all progress made on screen with female leads this actually feel like it goes a few steps back by showing once again that female characters are expendable and weak.
Does it seem like every time you turn on the TV you see the same movie playing?
It's not your imagination.
A new study by IHS Technology is reporting that while the quantity of movie content on U.S. basic cable hit a three-year high last year, fewer unique movies were broadcast in 2013 than in the previous three years.
In other words, the cable networks are sticking with reliable classics -- but for a few different reasons.
Showing movies as lead-ins for a network's original programming, or during weekends as part of a theme marathon, is nothing new.
It's a time-tested model that works for both sides. They boost ratings for the network, and the lucrative deals behind them help studios offset a movie's production budget and achieve greater profitability.
The study from the El Segundo, Calif.-based company showed that Twenty-First Century Fox led all other studios with nearly 90,000 hours of movie content being shown on cable last year.
The report also speculates that total airtime is projected to be even higher this year and will represent an increase in both movie hours and share of airtime on TV. Movie consumption on basic cable is growing and logging more hours than ever before.
It's not just Fox utilizing this trend. Warner Brothers, a subsidiary of Time Warner, also was identified as a significant player in this market.
Both have movie channels on basic cable, including Fox Movie Channel and Turner Classic Movies, but they also have content channels such as FX, TNT, and TBS that supplement their original programs and acquired series with films.
It's no surprise FX plays a big role in this practice -- the network seems to be the leader in locking up the TV rights to major motion pictures. Just look at 2013 when the channel picked up a slew of films, including blockbusters Man of Steel, Fast & Furious 6, World War Z, Despicable Me 2, and The Heat all before the summer was over.
At the time of the deal FX CEO John Landgraf was quoted as saying he expected 21 movie premieres on the FX spinoff network FXX in 2014, which is a massive number.
Rules & restrictions
The study also goes into detail about the type of content that is more valuable. Titles from 2000 onwards are considered prime time, but that comes with a cost.
The movies in that group are more expensive and are saddled with restrictions, including a lengthy wait time until a network can first air them.
Remember the standard life cycle for a movie is theaters, home entertainment (VOD/DVD/Blu-Ray/streaming), premium channels (HBO/Showtime/Starz), and then basic cable. Independent films often carry a different set of rules and the report found 78% of movies being aired in 2013 were from those studios.
Cable networks also tend to rely on classics from the '80s and '90s, as those films have looser restrictions and carry a built-in audience.
In fact, six of the top 10 most shown moves on TV last year came from the 1990s including the most watched: 1993's Mrs. Doubtfire(which not coincidentally was distributed by Fox).
The full list, along with the number of times it ran on cable TV last year:
1. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993): 66
2. She's All That (1999): 59
3. Juno (2007): 53
4. Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002): 51
5. Ice Age (2002): 49
6. There's Something About Mary (1998): 47
7. Sleepless in Seattle (1993): 46
8. A Few Good Men (1992): 44
9. The Shawshank Redemption (1994): 44
10. Catwoman (2004): 44
Personally, I don't get Catwoman, but the rest of the names look right. Every time I see A Few Good Men or The Shawshank Redemption on TV, I get sucked in for at least 15 minutes.
With that in mind, this growing trend of intense focus on a few good films provides the rare win-win-win scenario: for networks (which capture viewers who can't flip away before they learn if Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan get together), for studios (which get funding to make new "new classics" ... or at least we can hope), and for viewers (who can take heart knowing Freddie Prinze, Jr. is never far away).
Your cable company is scared, but you can get rich
Even with weekly airings of Mrs. Doubtfire, you know cable's going away. But do you know how to profit?
There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, three companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple.
With great budget comes great responsibility.
Sony's pricey “Amazing Spider-Man” sequel must earn massive box office to justify the cost and also set the stage for future sequels and spinoffs. If Spidey stumbles, studio brass could draw more fire from investors like hedge fund guru Daniel Loeb.
It swings into U.S. theaters Friday with two more sequels and two Spider-Man spinoffs in development — “Sinister Six” and “Venom” – and it isn't cheap: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” has a $250 million-plus production budget and a hefty marketing budget around $100 million.
The Marc Webb-directed movie opened overseas a week early and has already grossed more than $155 million, indicating a healthy appetite among all four quadrants for the webslinger's latest adventure. The holds have been stronger for the sequel than the first film at the international box office.
That's the good news.
On the down side, reviews have been decidedly mixed, and future Spider-Man movies won't feature the palpable chemistry between series leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, which has been a highlight of the rebooted franchise thus far.
Why does it matter? Because unlike many of its Hollywood counterparts, Sony does not have franchises in its library on which to build future tentpole movies. Spider-Man is one of the precious few titles with a significant enough fan base to consider building out a universe of future movies.
The bedrock of that universe appears to be Oscorp, the nefarious company that connects all the characters. Peter Parker's father (Campbell Scott) worked there and in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” so do his love interest Gwen Stacy (Stone) and new nemesis Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), aka Electro.
Oscorp, of course, is named after Norman Osborne, who leaves the company to his son Harry Osborne, one of Peter's old friends who is eventually forced to assume the identity of the Green Goblin due to a genetic affliction, which only Peter's blood can cure. In “Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Dane DeHaan steps into the role of Harry, played by James Franco in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies.
The studio offers a teaser for “Sinister Six” at the end of “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the sort that's now expected by comic book movie audiences thanks to Marvel. The brief scene teases Oscorp creations, but because it is accessible via the app Shazam, some fans are grousing fans that they could not see it.
A Sony insider told TheWrap that the studio wants Spider-Man fans to leave the theater thinking about his next adventure, and the Shazam initiative was another way to do that. But what about the movie they just paid to see? Is that already an afterthought since the studio has already sold the tickets?
There's an inherent danger in trying to connect every movie to a larger universe. Handled well and it can pay off, as evidenced by Marvel's “The Avengers.” Handled poorly, the strategy can damage the core movie brand and turn off loyal fans.
It's unclear whether Spider-Man is going to make an appearance in “Sinister Six,” though he's not expected to in any significant way. After all, star Andrew Garfield needs a break between “Amazing Spider-Man” movies, which Sony has scheduled for release every other year for the next four years. “Part 3,” which Webb has committed to direct, is due on June 10, 2016, while “Part 4” will hit theaters on May 4, 2018.
Without Spidey, will the movies have the same appeal? What good are his villains without a hero to torment? That's the question many fans are asking as the studio plans the spinoffs.
Already, most complaints about “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” are that it's overstuffed and yet undercooked. Critics have singled out Webb and his army of screenwriters for spending too much time setting up the next movie in the Spider-Man universe and not enough time establishing proper character motivation.
Still, “Amazing Spider-Man 2” is on track to gross nearly $100 million this weekend, and Sony is hoping it will gross a cool $1 billion worldwide.
While that goal may not be out of reach, the studio should be mindful of not blowing its goodwill with audiences. The public loves the Spider-Man character and they want the franchise to succeed, but Webb would be wise to stick with what he does best rather than trying to appease comic book fans with CGI spectacle. It's the characters that are loved.
If Sony brass, including powerful studio chief Amy Pascal, lose sight of that they might find themselves in Wall Street's crosshairs. And even Spidey might not be able to rescue them from that.