Movie news for a dying decade

It’s the very last day of the aughts, the noughties, or the 2000s, whichever term you prefer, and there’s some movie news to pass along.

* It’s a funny day to have a stockholders meeting, but that’s appears to be what Marvel Entertainment did and, yes, they approved the widely heralded Disney merger. Russ Fischer at /film has the details.

* With, as far as I can see, no major wide releases or, as I far as I can tell, even large expansions to talk about and not much other information available, I’m dispensing with this week’s box office preview. However, Jolly Carl DiOrio is here to tell us that this weekend is going to look a little something like last weekend.

That’s not to say there aren’t some new movies out that you can see this week — though you’ll possibly have to live in New York or L.A. to see them. Since I dig Tennessee Williams, I’m sorry to see the bad reviews for “Loss of a Teardrop Diamond. South Korea’s “The Chaser” was a hit at home for director Na Hong-Jin and looks intriguing to me. It has also been optioned for a high profile American remake, possibly involving Leonardo DiCaprio and screenwriter William Monahan of “The Departed.”

the-chaser-movie-3

* Speaking of box office, I’m not sure this is exactly news, but, get this, “Avatar” is doing really well — it just passed the $800 million mark worldwide — and looks likely to continue to do extremely well for quite a long time. Even the busiest man in the world apparently couldn’t wait to see it in the White House movie theater (I wonder if it can show digital 3-D?) Also note that eight year-old Sacha and 11 year-old Malia were allowed to see it even though it has a PG-13 rating . Expect this to be discussed at length on the Sunday shows.

* I had to update yesterday’s post to correct this. Apparently, The Weinstein Company is going to leave “Nine” in the roughly 1,400 theaters it’s in, despite last week’s poor showing.

* It’s now “Sir Captain Picard” to you. Alongside Patrick Stewart, film and theater director Nicolas Hytner (“The Madness of King George”) just got an excuse to be extra snooty.

* Neil Blomkamp of “District 9” wants to make original films that aren’t based on older franchises and, so, has said he’ll stay away from large budgets. He’s not dumb.

  

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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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Neverending battles

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Some continuations of ongoing tales in the never ending movie wars…

* Naturally, Nikke Finke has more on the Disney-Marvel deal. Of course, there’s a discussion of Universal’s currently existing use of Marvel licensed characters at theme parks, which Finke points out is pretty much a job security plan for lawyers. Disney may spend decades slowly bringing the characters fully on board. Much more interesting to me is another post on the background of the deal. It’s been brewing for nearly a decade, but she reminds us of the genetic link Iger has to the history of comics.

His late great-uncle (his grandfather’s brother) was illustrator/cartoonist Jerry Iger, who partnered with illustrator/cartoonist Will Eisner back in the 1930s to create — you guessed it — the comic book packager Eisner & Iger Studios...And their first hire was Jack Kirby, who as you know later became the co-creator of many of Marvel’s best known characters with Stan Lee.

Kirby almost needs no introduction. Eisner, for those of you with less than obsessive old school comics knowledge,  is probably the comic book equivalent of John Ford with a dash of D.W. Griffith in terms of his influence on the medium as an artist/writer. He was also a very successful entrepreneur on various ends of the comic book industry for decades. (He’s best known as the creator of “The Spirit,” a great series which may take years to recover from the damage done to its memory by Frank Miller’s reprehensible film version.)

* I haven’t really had the chance to geek out with either friends or even online about how much I loved “Inglourious Basterds.”  If you were similarly entranced and want to read more, more, more about the movie, you need to check out last week’s ‘net colloquy between Dennis Cozzalio of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule and Bill R. of The Kind of Face You Hate. It’s an involved discussion that went to some surprising places as it addressed some explosive comments by film historian/critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, who eventually was mensch enough to join the discussion.

It’s a lengthy three part discussion at two sites, but probably the easiest place to start is the final post, because it has links to the previous three. Got it? There are some fairly significant spoilers hidden here and there, for sure, but if those don’t bother you too much and you haven’t gotten around to seeing the movie, you still might want to check it out. I was already spoiled on the main ones before I saw the movie, and it didn’t harm my enjoyment of it.

* One of the main villains of “Inglourious Basterds,” who has recently been making a name for himself one of the more recognizable ‘net commentators on geek matters, weighs in on last weeks “Avatar Day.” (H/t Den of Geek.)

  

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Disney buying Marvel! World as we know it ends! (Updated)

Okay, only the first part is true, but it’s pretty weird as it is — the House of Ideas and the Mouse House are likely to become one. It’s still quite early here on the West coast  and all we have right now are mostly still the raw public facts as reported in the press release which is being carried this morning by Comic Book Resources (CBR), Variety and Nikki Finke.

Unless I’m missing something, the deal involves a massive buy-out of Marvel stockholders to the tune of $4 billion and it still may have to clear some antitrust hurdles. This is obviously my bias talking, but I hope the Obama administration’s regulators take a good look at this deal before allowing it to go through. In my opinion, Disney is already far, far larger than any single media company should be allowed to be. On the other hand, the deal with Marvel is obviously not on the scale of Disney’s past deal with ABC in terms of its size and scope and they aren’t a direct competitor.

Marvel’s real strength is the wealth of characters mostly created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others. If it makes Marvel a healthier enterprise, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing. Finke is entirely bullish on the deal and praises Disney head Robert Iger for it, but I’m not sure we share the same exact priorities. We do both wonder if the association with Disney will somehow lower Marvel’s cool-factor among the young geeks. As for antitrust, I’m waiting to hear what the people who actually understand this stuff have to say, but I guess if we allowed the ABC deal to go through, this is nothing.

The word at this point is that Disney will allow it’s currrent licensing and third party deals — including fimmaking ones with the big studios it’s been working with up to now — to stand pat for the time being. It sounds to me, however, like the Mouse House might well be stepping in there at some point and a more recent item from Marketwatch definitely allows for that possibility. It also says that some lesser known Marvel characters might also be hitting silver screen. So, I guess Ant Man and Millie the Model might finally see their name in lights.

All I know for sure is that it’s feels almost like a sign of the geek apocalypse (the “geekalypse”?) to have Spiderman, the X-Men, Iron Man, and the Mighty Thor under the same roof as Mickey, Donald and Winnie the Pooh.  On the other hand, the distance between the Mickey Mouse Club and the Merry Marvel Marching Society might not be all that great in some ways.

UPDATE: Thanks to BKS for sending this NY Times article with more info. A couple of quick lifts: Marvel characters will start popping up at some Disney-owned theme parks fairly soon and Paramount may have the most to lose as Disney gradually brings the Marvel film franchises in-house.

  

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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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