Monday movie news

The Deadline crew has really been working overtime these last few days, so there’s much to talk about as a new week begins.

* I’m not kidding about the pace of news from Deadline today. Just as I was starting to finish writing this, Mike Fleming broke the news that we have a “Superman” director who’ll be working with producer Christopher Nolan, and he is one Zack Snyder of “300,” “Watchmen,’ the “Dawn of the Dead” remake and that owl movie that’s out right now. Expect a fightin’ Supes. Should you expect a good Supes movie? Dunno. I never understood the grief that “Superman Returns” got. It was a nice, fun movie in the best senses of the words “nice” and “fun.” Will this one be all grimness and unnecessary darkness? I hope not.

*  Fox landed the film adaptation rights for apparently the hottest book of the moment, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter which is being produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmanbetov (“Night Watch,” “Wanted“), who purchased the rights with their own money. And it’s not like they were afraid to show they really wanted it:

When Tim and Timur and their entourage of reps came to the Fox…they were met with a huge banner at the gate. It had the title treatment of the script and was emblazoned, “Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov present Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. At their parking spot were signs saying “Parking For Vampire Hunters Only: park at your own risk,” and so forth. There were bloody footprints lining the walkway and stairs leading from their cars to the meeting in Building 88 with images from the book and lines from the script. As if that were not enough, there also were bloody axes strewn about, and a bugle player in a Confederate uniform playing “Taps” as the filmmakers walked to the meeting..

Yes, like Camelot, Hollywood is a silly place, and I sort of like it that way. I just wished I enjoyed Bekmambetov’s movies, because I didn’t.

* Re: silliness. Check out this promotion for “Jackass 3D”

* I seriously dislike writing about stories that say that so-and-so is “about to be” “offered” a part. There are simply too many items like that and too many “ifs” (maybe the studio will change their minds; maybe the star will say “no,” etc.) and I prefer to wait until the story is further down the road. Nevertheless, Mike Fleming has reported that Emma Stone is about to be offered the part of Mary Jane Watson in the Marc Webb-directed 3D “Spiderman” reboot opposite Andrew Garfield.

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Movies for sale

I’m thoroughly fried this evening having done my Southern California thing and driven 180 miles basically to run family errands, but there is some more stuff going on that’s worth a mention.

* The American Film Market opens tomorrow. In case you haven’t heard of AFM, it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an event at which foreign buyers come to pick up the rights to mostly American films in various states of production. It’s an pretty important slice of the film financing process and one big event of the year in the foreign sales departments of film companies. (I actually worked in one of those myself in another life.)

One project on offer: a new version of one of the least performed of Shakespeare’s plays and one of the few this ex-English major has never read or seen: a contemporary “Coriolanus” being directed by Ralph Fiennes and starring Gerard Butler, who could use a little Shakespearian cred. Also, a film of an obscure classical play can definitely benefit from some star power. On the other hand, the script is being credited to John Logan of “The Last Samurai.” Ah, reminds of “Romeo and Juliet” … “with additional dialogue by Sam Taylor.”

* Not only “Scream IV,”  but “Scream V” and “Scream VI,” may actually be coming, says writer Kevin Williamson.

* Desperate for some more potent Oscar bait in the wake of the demise of “Amelia,” Fox Searchlight may apparently be moving up the release of “Crazy Heart” a country-music drama starring Jeff Bridges which, Steven Zeitchik writes, is being touted as “The Wrestler” goes country music. Sounds good to me, but in some ways that movie was already made back in ’73 with Rip Torn.

Okay, Mickey Rourke‘s character was a lot nicer, but the underlying spirit isn’t all that different.

  

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Break out the Bloody Marys, “The Hangover” Lingers at #1

As I was too chicken to more than implicitly predict last time, “The Hangover” held on to its #1 spot with a cool $33.4 million. Variety reminds us that this is only a 26% drop, very rare in today’s opening-weekend-centric turn-’em-and-burn-’em movie world. The star-free ensemble farce is clearly benefiting from excellent word of mouth so that folks who might ordinarily avoid an R-rated comedy about a Vegas bachelor party gone off the rails are being attracted. Good work.

Also Pixar/Disney did fabulously with its unbeatable, yet rare, principle that if you work really hard and imaginatively to provide quality family entertainment with a heart and soul as well as a bit of show-biz razzle-dazzle, people will actually show — you should pardon the express — “Up.” The CGI 3-D animation-fest with a cranky elderly protagonist that no sane executive would ever have greenlit were it not for Pixar’s unprecedented track record, earned $30.5 million and dropped a low 31%.

Denzel Washington, Meanwhile, in star-driven product land, “The Taking of Pelham 123” met the rather modest expectations for a lavish, all-star, action-remake and hit $25 million, while the Eddie Murphy family flick, “Imagine That,” netted a sad $5.7 million for the #6 spot on its opening weekend at over 3000 screens.

Now, I want to add that, while trashing movies I haven’t personally seen is against my religion (for all I know, I’ll end up sorta liking Tony Scott’s “Pelham” — stranger things have happened, I’m the guy who liked “Domino”), even more against my religion is trashing the concept of remakes, though on the whole they tend to be less good than earlier successful versions.  True, it doesn’t exactly scream “originality” to take on a property that’s been previously successful, but no one says, “Oh God, not another remake of ‘Romeo and Juliet.'” There is absolutely nothing wrong with restaging an old concept, as long as you have something of your own to say with that property and are not simply going with something that looks likes a safe bet in a business where safe bets don’t exist. Lack of “originality” is not the problem; abject creative cowardice is.

Movie remakes go back to Hollywood’s youth. Probably my single favorite little-known Hollywood factoid is that the 1941 “The Maltese Falcon” starring Humphrey Bogart and directed by John Huston was actually the third adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s great detective novel made over a period of about ten years. I also happen to think that Philip Kaufman’s 1978 version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is arguably even better than the rather great original version directed by Don Siegel in 1956. And, moving to TV land for just a second, is there any human being on the planet who thinks the recently concluded “Battlestar Gallactica” (don’t tell me how it ends!) isn’t a million times better than the unbelievably awful original? As Roger Ebert likes to say, movies are not what they are about but how they are about it. If you have something fresh to say by revisiting an old story, by all means say it, just make sure you’re not kidding yourself.

Anyhow, returning to this weekend’s b.o., what I think harmed both “Pelham” and “Imagine That” was that, as far as was visible from either the marketing or the response to it, these were movies that offered not one thing fresh or exciting or in any way of a great deal of interest other than the services of its stars. That’s good for something — big stars are the closest thing on the planet to a certain level of guarantee of public interest and sometimes that’s all you really need. But if you really want to hit it big, you’ve got to gamble a little bit that the audience is more interested in being genuinely entertained than lulled by the presence of name entertainment brands.

On the other hand, “Terminator Salvation,” which nobody seems to like too much, is actually doing very well abroad and the very honestly entertaining “Drag Me to Hell” isn’t exactly burning up the U.S. box office. So, who knows?

  

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