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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The calm after the storm

Thanks to some unusually humid weather, greater L.A. — and its air quality — is just beginning to recover from the still ongoing Station Fire. Hollywood is similarly recovering from the news of the Disney/Marvel merger. Still, there are a few items.

*  If you’re a member of the cult around 1999’s “The Boondock Saints,” you’ll be happy to hear that Troy Duffy and company are back and that “The Boondock Saints: All Saints Day” has been picked up for distribution. I missed both the original film and “Overnight,” the documentary about misbehavior and rank miscalculations of its director. Now, maybe, I should see both.

The movie has a lot of fans  of the young and male variety, and I’m one of those two things. Still, I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion I’d hate the movie and love the documentary, but we’ll see. The cast for the sequel looks very good, however. Two favorites of mine are included, stand-up genius and highly underrated thesp Billy Connolly is back from the original and the excellent Julie Benz of “Dexter” and “Angel” is featured as well.

* Guy Ritchie is apparently recreating himself as a franchise film director these days, and in the wake of his upcoming “Sherlock Holmes,” he’s been signed to do an adaptation of DC’s “Lobo,” which I take it will be some form of violent space opera. Nothing wrong with that.

* Presumably with inglourious cash in its pocket, The Weinstein Company has made an acquisition. Colin Firth will be taking the lead in an upcoming film about England’s King George IV VI, “The King’s Speech.”  Back in 1994, the very good stage adaptation, “The Madness of King George” dealt with the mental issues of George IV’s dad ancestor, George III. According to legend, the title was changed from “The Madness of George III” because of a fear that prospective filmgoers might assume it was a third sequel. They might as well re-title this one “The Speech Impediment of King George.”


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