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Raimi & Spidey part company; Hanks to direct again with Roberts in tow; history repeats on “Thor”; an auteur departs; ASC, WGA, and ACE noms; Nikki Finke makes a friend

Spiderman

My highly esteemed colleague Will Harris has been right on top of  the huge small screen stories that seem to be breaking right and left at the TCA conference this week. Still, it’s not like there hasn’t been any news in movieland. It’s almost hard to know where to start.

* The Hollywood Reporter as well as Nikki Finke and new stablemate Mike Fleming (more on that below) are carrying the news that, in the wake of ongoing script problems, the kibosh has been put on Sam Raimi’s “Spiderman IV” with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst and a 2012 reboot, written by James Vanderbilt (“Zodiac“) announced. The new film will feature a once-again teenage Peter Parker, so Taylor Lautner is no doubt already in touch with his agent.

THR says the script problems had something to do with a disagreement over supervillains between Raimi and Sony and/or Marvel Studios. Finke also notes that the fourth installment would probably not have been in 3-D and it seems reasonable that that might have been a factor, given the current mania for the process.

* In another apparent scoop for new Deadline team member Mike Fleming, Tom Hanks is returning as a writer-director for the second time since making his 1996 charmer, “That Thing You Do!” A comedy, “Larry Crowne” will reteam him with his “Charlie Wilson’s War” co-star, Julia Roberts. Like “Up in the Air,” according to Fleming it’s somewhat topical in that’s it’s about a middle-aged guy forced to reinvent his career at a time when past generations where just starting to settle down.

tom-hanks-and-julia-rober-002

While he’s at it, Fleming also has the word on Shia LaBeouf not going agentless after all and signing with CAA. Agents around the world can all breathe easier now.

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Yet another Friday night movie news dump

Really not that much to say, except…

* Summit has acquired the North American rights to distribute “The Ghost Writer,” a political thriller starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan. And why is this the top item? The director is Roman Polanski. Wait for this film to benefit from a lot of free publicity generated by people who think it’s wrong to see any movie in which someone involved with it once did a very bad thing. If you follow that rule, you’ll miss a lot of movies.

* Not too surprisingly, that report I mentioned on Wednesday that James Cameron‘s next movie is going to be an outer space redo or homage or what have you of The Seven Samurai was all wet. Instead, quoth the Playlist, he’s producing, but not directing, a remake of the not-so-great (at least as far as I can remember it) sixties sci-fi hit, “Fantastic Voyage.” It could work and will probably be at least a little bit fun in 3-D.

fantastic-voyage-rm-eng

* Speaking of Cameron, it’s a bit weighted towards the geek press at this moment, but reviews have been leaking all over the place for “Avatar” and, guess what, the critics seem to think there’s something to the hype. At the very least the film is guaranteed to get a bunch of technical nominations and probably win them. Throw some Oscars into the marketing mix of James Cameron’s latest, and a genuinely gigantic hit with massive legs could brewing.

How long before the inevitable backlash? Well, Michael Phillips‘ review encompasses both frontlash and backlash. Putting on her critic hat, Anne Thompson writes a prose poem. She says all us cinephiles are going to have to see it multiple times. Well, I’m sure some of us will disagree there. Contrarians, skeptics, and extra-tough critics, start your engines.

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Of movies and madness on a Monday

Movie news bits and pieces tonight.

* Universal may be having a bad year, but Sony is doing just fine.

* Disney has apparently ditched a McG-spearheaded sort-of prequel to “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” focusing on the “origin” of Captain Nemo and his fabulous submarine, the Nautilus. Apparently, pirates on the water are better than mysterious antiheroes underneath it.

20000_leagues_under_the_sea_1954

* Kim Masters introduces us to “the movie theater of the future,” which sounds an awful lot like no movie theater at all to me. With people buying fewer DVDs, I supposed it’s necessary for the studios to experiment with delivery systems and new approaches, but undercutting theater owners won’t help anyone in the long run. The focus should be largely on making moviegoing better, cheaper (or at least providing more value), and more of an event for filmgoers of all ages — while also maybe utilizing our enormous numbers of screens to offer more choices. Just a thought.

* Have you ever heard of fifties B-movie and sixties TV director Paul Wendkos? I just barely recognized the name and I’m a gigantic geek. C. Jerry Kuttner has some thoughts on his passing.

* That item above is via The Auteurs Daily and so is this item. Extreme meta and some inside baseball is involved, so caution is advised. So, was using the expression  “screw-up,” a screw-up? That’s the question facing Anne Thompson who, in post I linked to and left a brief comment at last week about a new job for L.A. Weekly movie critic Scott Foundas, had in passing pretty much said that former New York Film Festival programmer Kent Jones had apparently been guilty of some sort of big mistake, with the implied result being his departure. Anyhow, Mr. Jones has friends and one of them was Manohla Dargis of the New York Times. I really don’t know any of the specifics enough to even contemplate a comment on whose right and wrong here — the ins and outs of festivals and their personnel hasn’t exactly been on my radar — but fans of excess verbiage might want to take a look at the ‘net equivalent of a non-lethal multi-car pile-up that eventually involved Mr. Foundas as well.

* Bad news for cinephiles. Edward Copeland, whose  involvement in the movie-geek blogosphere predates my own and lots of others by some time, is taking a break from blogging because of health concerns. For as long as his break lasts, he will certainly be missed. Get better soon, Edward.

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How do I top that?

It’s a crazy and very busy day, I’m still recovering from some extremely mild case of the blahs or something, and surely doubt there’s anything I can write more interesting than the colloquy in the comments of my earlier post on mega-online entertainment news/opinion doyen Nikki Finke, in which Ms. Finke posted a response, I posted a response to the response…and, well, you can all see for yourselves but parts of it were not pretty.

Still, I’d like to draw your attention to an interesting and not unrelated post on the whole question of journalistic — if that’s the world — ethics in this brave new online world we’re all in by Anne Thompson. Not only is her piece on the issues brought up recently food for much thought, but the ad hoc symposium in comments is must reading and includes comments by several well known critics, including her immediate subject, James Rocchi, as well as guest appearances by Harry Knowles, Jeffrey “the Dude” Dowd, Todd Gilchrist, and many other fine folks including a brief comment by me. It might be a bit inside baseball/meta for some, but definitely worth a look for anyone interested in this whole new media world we’re all carving out right now.

Just for the record, I don’t consider what I do here and elsewhere journalism in the normal sense but an attempt to honestly entertain and educate whoever happens to be reading. As long as the acceptance of a free DVD, screening, a paycheck, or fabulous all-expenses trip to fabulous Bermuda or Culver City doesn’t get in the way of that, there’s no problem. And, if it does, we have no one to blame but ourselves and you readers will eventually catch on. I also try to avoid actually reviewing movies by people I actually know personally a bit too well to be objective or even commenting on them without noting the relationship. For example, this link to a very exciting, violent, and sensual tongue-in-cheek extravanganza is only here because I’m friends with the filmmaker and I’m actually in the movie. Honesty — always the best policy.

Look here’s a great (and NSFW) trailer I just discovered. Ignore the little balding guy with the strippers!

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Oy, what a weekend: A Disney exit and a Toronto bloodbath (Updated)

You may not have heard it, but the movie world’s been shifting on its axis over the last few days. It might not be very pretty.

* Dick Cook, the Chairman of Disney who doesn’t get nearly the amount of press of CEO Bob Iger, resigned just before the start of Rosh Hashanah last Friday night. In the inevitable “did he fall or was he pushed?” argument, the “push” side seems to have the edge and the repercussions are significant, but not completely clear.

The short version seems to be that Cook and Iger simply had different views on too many issues and that the movie side of Disney, Pixar aside, hasn’t been doing quite as well lately as some would like. Cook was, however, apparently rather well liked by such superstars as Steven Spielberg and Johnny Depp, and that might have an impact on such issues as whether not they’ll be a fourth “Pirates” movie. Marc Graser of Variety has more — including the tantalizing suggestion that the job might be Pixar head John Lasseter’s to turn down. Of course, Nikki Finke has yet more of the seemingly endless lowdown.

Johnny Depp and Dick Cook

* Speaking of Disney and its famous recent acquisition, there’s a second lawsuit similar to the one that wrapped a while back regarding the rights to Superman — or not. Let’s just say it’s from the same lawyer and this time the target is Time Warner/DC Comics competitor, the newly Disnified Marvel Entertainment. As described by Nikki Finke, who picked up the story from the comics site Bleeding Cool, this time the creator in question is the late, great Jack Kirby, one of the most respected figures in all of comicsdom and the co-creator with Stan Lee of many of Marvel’s best known characters including the Fantastic Four and the Mighty Thor. (He also co-created Captain America with Joe Simon just months before America’s entry into World War II.) There’s a long history on the whole issue of Kirby’s role in creating these comics in relation to Stan Lee, and there are a number of issues here. Like anything legal, it gets pretty thorny and there’s some pretty “lively” debate among the commenters at Deadline Hollywood.

* Perhaps most significant of all, reporter/blogger Anne Thompson has written a post that’s sent shockwaves through the online film world and probably the actual film world as well — though the news itself is known to those affected. She concisely entitled her post-festival piece “Toronto Wrap: Indie Bloodbath.” The villain here seems to be, at least partly, rising marketing costs — though I’d like someone to explain to me why they are rising as we’re coming out of a recession with a more or less jobless recovery. Nevertheless:

It costs too much money these days to make a dent, a mark, an impression that will create enough urgency in filmgoers to make them go out and see a movie. While Ted Mundorff insists that business is up at indie-branded Landmark Cinemas around the country, and Apparition’s Bob Berney is hopeful that exec changes at Cinemark and AMC will bring a new awareness to booking the right movies in the right locations, the indie market needs help.

With the exception of the high profile deal for a “A Single Man” last week, very little business got done in Toronto and struggling indie filmmakers are, rather than selling their films, paying to have their films released. Terms like “tectonic shift” are being bandied about. Via David Hudson/The Auteurs Daily, we have reaction from my personal movie Yoda, Roger Ebert and Vadim Rizov, who comments on Universal’s recent troubles and its ensuing spending freeze.

The irony is, of course, that all of this comes after a  very successful movie summer. Another chapter, I suppose, in the ongoing realignment of all media, though the timing sure seems odd. Movies will survive, but it’s a most definitely a tough time for all but the most micro-budgeted of indies and the big budgeted productions of ordinary Hollywood, and life’s not exactly a feather-bed for them, either.

UPDATE: Also via The Auteur’s Daily, apparently there’s been some delayed Toronto-related action and some blood just got mopped off the floor. And a little more. Things are, I’m sure, still bad, but perhaps the mood might be a hair less apocalyptic for larger indies.

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Looking backward

A few more items with a retro cast, starting with a sad one.

* It’s simply too big a show business and media story not to mention that the death of Michael Jackson has been ruled a homicide. Though you can argue that it shouldn’t be more than a legal story, there’s really no underestimating the pop-cultural impact of something like this. Certainly, it won’t be lowering the temperature around the upcoming movie built around Jackson’s last performances.

* On a far more pleasant note, Anne Thompson has casting news on Andrew Stanton’s upcoming non-Pixar film of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars.” I’m not familiar with most of the names, but Samantha Morton is definitely cool with me.

* Anne Thompson also posted a trailer that I’m borrowing below for Christopher Nolan’s new film with Leonardo DiCaprio, “Inception.” Ms. Thompson calls it a “mind movie.” I wonder if everyone doing well in Hollywood from studio heads to head waiters shouldn’t just tithe to the estate of Phillip K. Dick without whom we’d have none of the film’s in this subgenre would exist. If ever a writer’s impact was underestimated in his own lifetime, he’d be the guy.


Inception @ Yahoo! Video

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One born every minute

Let’s face it, the movie business is all about roping in the suckers, but I mean that in the nicest possible way.

* Several Comic-Cons ago, a rumor was about that Marvel was going to stop publishing comic books entirely and concentrate strictly on making movies and generally just marketing the hell out of their characters. This struck me as patently absurd because, even if the tail is wagging the dog, you still need the dog. Nevertheless, fiscally speaking at least, Marvel’s waggable rear is definitely stronger than its canine according to Variety‘s Marc Graser:

….Licensing is expected to generate the most coin for the company during the year, with up to $215 million, followed by movies and TV shows at up to $150 million, and comic books with $120 million.

* “G.I Joe” is a chicken-hearted pantywaist when it comes to critics. It’s kind of funny because “Team America” got really good reviews overall and from all appearances this is pretty much exactly the same movie.

* Why is Anne Thompson so much cooler than other film journos? We’ll, she’ll go to see Bollywood movies in unfashionable Artesia, relatively close to my highly uncool zip code, for starters. She also has three great trailers, including one for the Coen Brother’s next film. “The rabbi is busy.”

* Apparently piggybacking somewhat on his Oscar night success, Hugh Jackman is going to star in “an original contemporary musical” for Fox based on the life of P.T. Barnum, the circus impresario perhaps most famous today for opining that a sucker is born every minute. (I’d go for each second, myself.) I’m not sure what they mean by “contemporary” given that Phineas T. Barnum died in 1891, but I take it that “original” is meant to differentiate the film from the 1980 Broadway musical which starred Jim Dale and Glenn Close. Apparently Anne Hathaway, who had also had a bit of success in the Oscar’s opening number, will be joining him as singer Jenny Lind (and there’s talk of a new version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Carousel” also to pair Jackman with Hathaway).

The music will be by some guy named Mika, who I had never heard of until just now but whose opera background and overall approach reminds me of a more classic R&B/funk and T-Rex/Bowie influenced Rupert Wainwright. After watching the video below, I’m largely sold though I hope he tries to avoid anything too obviously anachronistic. (I’m not sure Barnum should be getting funky on us, though I love the funk.) The high quality of the music and Mika’s way around various types of retro sounds makes me think he might be just right for the project. Also, naming your song “Grace Kelly” won’t ever hurt your standing with me.


Mika – Grace Kelly
by SamFisher037

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Going forward to yesterday, the sequel

As discussed in my last post, more “everything old is new again” stories flitting about…

* There was a time in Hollywood history when A-list actresses, too, could draw at the box office well into their maturity, just like A-list males. If we’re talking about Meryl Steep that time is now. For myself, I can say that I only appreciate Ms. Streep more each year, especially since she’s had the chance to show her comic side.

* A political flash from the past. Nikki Finke relays the news that a quartet of heavyweight thesps — Benicio del Toro, Bill Murray, Robert Duvall, and James Caan — are paying a visit to Cuba. It used to be that such visits would be painted as Hollywood liberals endorsing a communist dictatorship, part of the endless “who’s more hypocritical?” aspect of the liberal-conservative culture wars. As the possibility of more open relations with the island continues to grow, this is no longer really possible. Especially considering that Robert Duvall is a fairly outspoken Republican. Damn those Hollywood limousine conservatives.

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The geek overload continues! (updated)

With the completely and utterly sold-out Comic-Con starting mid-week, Hollywood publicists seem to be working overtime to fulfill your no doubt insatiable need for geek news. I could probably write seven or eight posts catering to nerd proclivities. But you’re getting just one today, (and, with the help of few snafus, this one took much longer than it should have). A few highlights

* Leonardo DiCaprio’s company has signed writer Rand Ravich (“The Astronaut’s Wife,” the TV series “Life”) to do a new film somehow tied to Rod Serling’s classic anthology science-fiction/fantasy TV series, “The Twilight Zone.” Many of you will remember the 1983 film, which utilized multiple writers and directors and consisted of three adaptations of well known episodes from the original series, one tale loosely drawn from a pair of episodes (sadly infamous due to the accident which killed actor Vic Morrow and two illegally hired children, very nearly ending the career of director John Landis), and a framing story featuring Albert Brooks and Dan Aykroyd. No word on what form this new film would take — a single tale would be missing the entire point of “The Twilight Zone,” IMO — and I’m unfamiliar with Ravich’s work. So, it’ll be interesting to watch this one move further along the pipeline.

[Update: Apparently, one year ago at least, the idea was to make a single film drawn from an episode of the series. Why, I have no idea. I learned this via Monika Bartyzel, you can read her post and my messed up comments here.

* The word on the overseas grosses for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” are in and they’re a new worldwide five day record of $297 million. Blimey.

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And the geek overload begins in earnest…

And why would that be? Well, next Wednesday night is the kick-off of San Diego’s now humongous Comic-Con, an event I’ve been attending off and on, but mostly on, since I was a barely pubescent geekling, and both me and the con have changed a little over the years.

The con has grown into something truly enormous and become less fun, and I’ve definitely grown (a little) bigger. I’ll leave the “fun” judgment to others. Like the con also, I’ve also definitely grown less comics-obsessed and more exclusively film/television focused — partly as a function of cost and partly of time. I’m not sure what the con’s excuse is.

In any case, I find myself unable to focus on any one topic right now and am fretting about things like whether or not there will be free wi-fi again this year, but as the event I call “Cannes for geeks” grows ever closer, we’ll be visiting with our old family friends, the Asterisks.

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