Last night’s episode of “The Biggest Loser” featured another surprise for the contestants–a trip to New Zealand. And the show featured a bit of everything. The first thing they had to do when the arrived was to climb up the famed tower in Auckland and either decide to take the stairs back down or jump off using bungee style wires. I don’t know about you, but I was getting the willies just watching that. Moses and Rulon were not allowed to do it based on their weight, and Jay because of a heart condition, but everyone else was eligible and chose to do it with the exception of Ken. Ken was terrified of heights, but Bob Harper said he would do it if Ken did, and Bob was equally afraid. But the both did it. But hell, I still wouldn’t!
Then they showed Moses telling Bob that his dad went to college in New Zealand, helping his family move to the US for a better life, Bob gave Moses his cell phone to call the dad. Pretty cool but way too fluffy a story. Then they showed Ken and trainer Cara fighting because Ken felt he needed more from Cara in the way of getting in his face and being more like Bob and Jillian. Ouch. But Cara was really indignant and defensive, just like most New Yorkers are (I am from there, I can say that!). But they kissed and made up.
* James Cameron apparently won’t be directing the latest iteration of legend of Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Instead, he’ll spend the next few years doing the inevitable: “Avatar 2” and “Avatar 3.” Apparently, the commitment now is partially in return for Fox making a large donation to green causes Cameron supports.
* Christopher Nolan gave Geoff Boucher the title of the next Batman installment “The Dark Knight Rises” — not very inspiring. Having previously eliminated Mr. Freeze as the film’s big bad, he also eliminated the Riddler. That leaves Catwoman, the Penguin, and…Man-Bat?
A lot of fascinating things have happened in the history of movie making, but offhand I can’t think of an example of nationwide protests to keep a film in a particular country, but that’s exactly what happened today in New Zealand, where it’s actually already tomorrow. The issue, of course, are the continuing threats amid the probably inevitable hardball negotiations to move production away from the small island nation in the wake of battles with local actors unions. Here’s what’s happening as the biggest protest is led by Richard Taylor of the famed WETA workshop which did such a great job on the effects in the “Lord of the Rings” films.
It’s important to remember, I think, that as successful as he is, Richard Taylor is very much an independent entrepreneur who has to keep a steady flow of work going for WETA. I spoke to him briefly at Comic-Con as he was helping to promote what appears to be a very unpromising and very low budget effects driven production. Thinking of him as someone who has collaborated closely with a guy like Peter Jackson, I was perplexed until I realized that, for a guy like him with a payroll, it’s always about the next job. Money is money and he can’t be too proud about the projects he takes on, as long as he delivers the best he can for the money. In the case of this particular next job, an entire country, small though it is, is seriously impacted.
For a bit more background, I have a great piece of video — including a very blunt interview with Peter Jackson (that’s Sir Jackson, to you) from last week.
And one final note: Notice how New Zealand Finance Minister Gerry Brownlee assures anchor Mark Sainsbury that there was no negotiations going on between his government and Warner Brothers for improved tax incentives. If you read the THR story from today I linked to above, you’ll note that whether or not such negotiations are going on, people seem to assume they might be.
Somewhat to my surprise, given how slow Monday and Tuesday was, we have some movie news to report. Sadly, the first item is a bummer.
* Our very sincere condolences to the friends, family, and avid readers of writer and horror/gore maven Chas Balun, who died of cancer on December 18th. Probably mostly because of my phobia of the kind of movies he championed, Balun’s name wasn’t immediately familiar to me before this, but clearly the author and longtime contributor to Fangoria and Gorezone was a writer whose work meant a great deal to genre fans as well as a very sincere film geek/cinephile, and for that he has my respect. The Fangoria blog has a very good obituary.
* Sony has not been including a screener DVD for Duncan Jones’ highly regarded science fiction film, “Moon,” in its pre-Oscar promotional package. The result: “Twitter storm“!
* It’s now Sir Peter Jackson to you. Considering the positive impact his LOTR tour de force must have had on the New Zealand economy, they might have considered making him king. Okay, New Zealand doesn’t have one. Also, I gather it’s more of a British Commonwealthy kind of a thing.
* With “The Lovely Bones” starting to look like a disappointment — and that’s definitely true so far in terms of award nominations and reviews, Peter Jackson may be starting to look ahead to his other projects. Among them, via the Playlist, is WWI and the devastating Battle of Gallipoli. The 1915 battle was the subject of a terrific Peter Weir film from 1981 that starred the young Mel Gibson, but Jackson adds that it only covered a few days of the battle, so there’s plenty of story left to tell. Weir wants to get the film ready in time for 100-year anniversary of the bloody episode, which helped define the national identities of both New Zealand, Australia, and Turkey. If you’re counting, I guess that gives him four or five years to ready the film
* Speaking of upcoming projects involving Peter Jackson (and Steven Spielberg), it’s time to start boning up on your Tintin knowledge before 2011, and if you live in L.A. and have time to get over to West Hollywood’s Meltdown Comics over the next day or so, here’s one cool opportunity to do just that.
* A suddenly agent-less Shia LaBeouf has decided a manager and a lawyer is enough. Nikki Finke deems this a “SHOCKER!”
* Adrian Curry selects the decades greatest posters over at the Auteurs. Personally, I think poster making is a lost art. Things are usually way too literal these days, but Curry’s choices are strong.
* Would you want to face Alec Baldwin in a real-life court of law? How about prosecuting? “ABC…Always be convicting.” Still, it’s possible he might need a seasonal gig at some point to help him work his way through law school…